Blitz bombs but TheatreWorks’ Sweeney still soars

Oct 12

Blitz bombs but TheatreWorks’ <i>Sweeney</i> still soars

Tory Ross' sublime performance as Mrs. Lovett, maker of the "worst pies in London," threatens to hijack the TheatreWorks production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and turn it into Nellie Lovett: People Who Eat People Are the Luckiest People.

There's no escaping the genius of Angela Lansbury's indelible performance (captured on video) in the original production of what composer Stephen Sondheim describes as a "dark operetta," but that star turn was a Victorian cartoon, a manically genial grotesque with shadings of a real flesh-and-bone woman under all the goofiness.

But Ross is a whole lot less cartoon and a whole lot more human being.

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A Whale of a (heartbreaking) tale in Marin

Oct 08

A <i>Whale</i> of a (heartbreaking) tale in Marin

Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale, now at Marin Theatre Company is a difficult play to watch. That description might not make you want to run out and buy a ticket, but hold on. Difficult doesn't preclude greatness.

At first glance, the play, winner of MTC's 2011 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize, involves a guy in a fat suit. Granted, it's a really good fat suit (Christine Crook is the costume designer), but faking a 600-pound guy and watching an actual 600-pound guy are very different experiences. But here's the thing: what actor Nicholas Pelczar brings to that suit is extraordinary.

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Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s Waltz

Oct 06

Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s <i>Waltz</i>

A love letter to Emily Skinner...

Dear Ms. Skinner,I had the pleasure of seeing you perform in 42nd Street Moon's production of Do I Hear a Waltz, and I was completely captivated by your Leona Samish, the lonely American tourist who travels to Venice for a taste of life. I have fond memories of Moon's 1998 production back when they were doing staged concert productions with actors holding their scripts. That was my first encounter with Waltz, a 1965 Broadway curiosity that matched three musical theater masters – Richard Rodgers , Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. The show, by all accounts, was a misery to create, primarily because Rodgers, lacking confidence in his abilities in the wake of Oscar Hammerstein's death, was a miserable and stubborn collaborator

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Ideation redux: still smart, thrilling, funny

Sep 28

<i>Ideation</i> redux: still smart, thrilling, funny

Bay Area playwright Aaron Loeb's award-winning play Ideation returns to San Francisco Playhouse, this time on the main stage. The play features the cast and director from its SF Playhouse Sandbox premiere last year, and some changes have been made to the play, but the results are as they should be. Ideation is the must-see play of the fall.

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Berkeley Rep’s Meow Meow: It’s all feline and dandy

Sep 13

Berkeley Rep’s <i>Meow Meow</i>: It’s all feline and dandy

You get the impression, watching An Audience with Meow Meow that the star, a self-styled international singing sensation, and director Emma Rice would like nothing better than to destroy the theater and finish the show from the rubble. While audience members wipe blood from their faces and grapple with their broken bones, Meow Meow will persist in singing, making jokes and lamenting the state of the world. Stripped of all theatrical artifice, artist and audience will become one, and art will have saved the world.

That doesn't happen – well, not exactly. But Meow Meow and Rice do what they can to deconstruct a nightclub act and turn it into a substantial piece of theater.

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Battle cocks ruffle feathers in Impact’s rowdy Rooster

Sep 12

Battle cocks ruffle feathers in Impact’s rowdy <i>Rooster</i>

For Gil Pepper, the world as he sees it is a "big fuck-you machine." He lives with his aging mother in a crumbling Oklahoma house his late father built. He has a go-nowhere job as a McDonald's cashier, where his name tag is misspelled "Girl." And though his prospects are bleak, there is a sliver of light: cock fighting.

This ancient sport, Gil tells us, goes all the way back to the Greeks, so there's nobility in allowing feathered beasts to do horrible things to each other in the ring. Gil wants to be a winner at something in life, and this just might be his ticket.

What's so interesting about Eric Dufault's Year of the Rooster, the season opener from Berkeley's Impact Theatre.

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