Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater Antigonick

Mar 27

Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater <i>Antigonick</i>

It's a museum piece come to life, a poem that dances, a classic that feels ultra-modern. Shotgun Players' Antigonick is all that and more, including somewhat baffling and exhausting.

You don't go into a Mark Jackson show expecting theatrical pablum. Jackson has long been one of the Bay Area's most interesting theater makers – intelligent, audacious, boundary pushing and always, always interesting. He tends to merge varying styles of theater, often very physical, but always in service of storytelling and emotion.

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SF Playhouse’s Stupid Bird f##king soars

Mar 22

SF Playhouse’s <i>Stupid Bird</i> f##king soars

In Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird, an energizing riff on Chekhov's The Seagull, a playwright laments that what he's written is just another play where nothing real happens. You can't really say the same thing about Posner's play.

Bird doesn't change the world, as the fictional playwright at one point says that theater should aim to do, but it does rattle the theatrical cage and clears away some musty clouds that hover over business as usual. It's irreverent, gutsy, funny and even moving – everything you want Chekhov to be but so rarely find in his productions.

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Sublime stories from Word for Word and Alice Munro

Mar 08

Sublime stories from Word for Word and Alice Munro

Any celebration of Alice Munro merits attention, but when that celebration comes from Word for Word, the ever-astonishing local company that transforms short fiction into brilliant theater with complete fidelity to the original text, attention must not only be paid but also reveled in and savored.

Word for Word brought a Munro story to life in 1999 ("Friend of My Youth"), and the intervening years have brought more acclaim for the Canadian writer and a Nobel Prize for literature. Now that she is rightly revered for her masterful prose, Munro is given a full Word for Word evening in Stories by Alice Munro: "The Office" & "Dolly," a sort of career bookend.

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Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in Aulis

Mar 07

Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in <i>Aulis</i>

Award-winning San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen gets deep into existential nihilism in his latest world premiere, Aulis: An Act of Nihilism in One Long Act. That title pretty much says it all: Chen takes the premise of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis and gives it a contemporary spin that allows for abundant comedy yet still leads to a bloody, ultimately futile end.

Chen's epic one-act receives a spiffy production from U.C. Berkeley's Theater Dance & Performance Studies Department, which seems appropriate as Chen is a Cal alum and began his playwriting career there.

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Crowded Fire’s Edith hits the target

Mar 03

Crowded Fire’s <i>Edith</i> hits the target

Think of A. Rey Pamatmat's Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them as sort of a '90s "Peanuts" strip come to life. Sixteen-year-old Kenny is like Charlie Brown. Twelve-year-old Edith is Kenny's younger sister, so that makes her Sally (and so does her sass). And Kenny's classmate Benji is Linus (with a little Schroeder mixed in). There's even a giant stuffed frog named Fergie that could be considered Snoopy-esque. Only in this comic strip, Charlie and Sally Brown have essentially been abandoned by their parents to fend for themselves on a farm, and Charlie Brown and Linus are in love.

The "Peanuts" comparison is apt here if only to convey the tone of Edith, which has mature actors playing tweens and teens. There's a very grown-up feel to this tale, and that's partly because Kenny and Edith are being forced to grow up much faster than normal.

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Faith, choices, colonialism collide in Marin’s gutsy Convert

Feb 25

Faith, choices, colonialism collide in Marin’s gutsy <i>Convert</i>

p>For someone who kills zombies in her day job, Danai Gurira sure knows her way around a compelling drama. Best known as the kick-ass, Katana-wielding Michonne on AMC's "The Walking Dead," Gurira is also a playwright, an impressive one as it turns out based on her Bay Area debut with The Convert now at Marin Theatre Company.

This is a good, old-fashioned historical drama – three acts and nearly three hours – about the soul-crushing damage of colonialism and missionary zeal. What's interesting is that The Convert is the second play to open in the Bay Area recently specifically addressing the colonizing of Africa by Europeans.

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