Cal Shakes ends season with a vibrant Dream

Sep 07

Cal Shakes ends season with a vibrant <i>Dream</i>

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a landmark play for California Shakespeare Theater. When the company really became the company, then known as Berkeley Shakespeare Company, the first show produced at John Hinkel Park was Midsummer. Since then, the play has been performed seven more times, and now Cal Shakes concludes its 40th anniversary season with a version of the play that feels unlike any other production of it I've seen.

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Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s Seminar

May 08

Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s <i>Seminar</i>

The ego, the insecurity and the courage of fiction writers are all on hilarious and intriguing display in Theresa Rebeck's Seminar, a one-act comedy that derives laughter from pain and theatrical pleasure from whiplash-smart word play.

The premise is simple: four New York writers have paid $5,000 each for 10 weekly classes with a famous writer. They meet in the beautiful (and rent controlled) apartment of one classmate and wait anxiously for the globe-trotting famous guy, who can't really be bothered to remember their names, to pass judgement on their work.

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Fifty shades of Wonder in Marin Theatre Co.’s Lasso

Feb 26

Fifty shades of Wonder in Marin Theatre Co.’s <i>Lasso</i>

You're bound to like Carson Kreitzer's Lasso of Truth if you like Wonder Woman...and a heaping helping of S&M on the side.

If you didn't know the two were related, first of all, think about it for a minute (the golden lasso, the bustier, the metal bracelets, etc.), and second of all, has Kreitzer got an origin story for you. Commissioned by Marin Theatre Company, the play is part of the National New Play Network, which means this is what they call a "rolling world premiere." The show begins in Mill Valley then heads to Atlanta and Kansas City.

So where did Wonder Woman come from (and we're not talking about Paradise Island, home of the Amazons)? For many of us, she sprung fully formed in the 1970s looking like Lynda Carter in a patriotic bathings suit and gold accessories. That famous TV show is actually a jumping-off point for Kreitzer's play.

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At SF Playhouse, pretty is as Pretty does

Mar 31

At SF Playhouse, pretty is as <i>Pretty</i> does

I've come to learn that when a Neil LaBute play or movie crosses my path, I detour around it, ignore it or make an immediate donation to a women's support or LBGT organization. LaBute is a really good writer – his ear for dialogue is impeccable, and his ferocity for storytelling is admirable. I just rarely like what his characters have to say or where his stories end up.

That said, LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty, now at San Francisco Playhouse, marks the first time I've left one of the writer's play and not wanted to bash my head against the wall on the way out. Sure, there are traces of misogyny, homophobia and racism (mostly coming from the mouth of one classic LaButian male character). But what's interesting here is that LaBute is being provocative in the name of evolution, of self-actualization, of emotional growth.

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Playwright Jordan Puckett ready for prime time

Mar 05

Playwright Jordan Puckett ready for prime time

We have a Theater Dogs guest writer! Welcome Scott Lucas of San Francisco magazine, who chatted with playwright Jordan Puckett, whose Inevitable runs through March 23rd as part of San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox series. Scott Lucas: With the opening of Inevitable, it’s not only the first performance of this play, but the first time any of your plays has been done, right? Jordan Puckett: I’ve had readings of Inevitable before, though it’s had many titles and versions. This is the world premiere. It’s the first production of it, and my first production ever.

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Bewitched? No, bothered and bewildered at SF Playhouse

Dec 09

Bewitched? No, bothered and bewildered at SF Playhouse

Oh, how I would love to tell you how a graceful and convincing performance by Lauren English and a sturdy production by Bill English rescues John Van Druten's 1950 comedy Bell, Book and Candle from the heap of mediocre mid-century plays that have become irretrievably dated. And while Team English is indeed in good form here, the play itself is an attempt at enchantment that fails to enchant.

It very well could be that this play has been forever ruined for me by the TV show "Bewitched," which for eight seasons never failed to delight me as a witch made a family with a mortal man in a world with a closed collective mind where issues of magic were concerned. The TV show, which was inspired by Van Druten's play as well as the 1942 movie I Married a Witch, featured a blithe central performance by the ever-enchanting Elizabeth Montgomery, who somehow seemed above all the slapstick mayhem surrounding her. Members of the magic world were played for big laughs, none more so that Agnes Moorehead's delicious Endora, the mother-in-law from character actress hell (or heaven, depending on your point of view).

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