Hébert’s moving Tree explores family’s tangled roots

Jan 26

Hébert’s moving <i>Tree</i> explores family’s tangled roots

I reviewed Julie Hébert's drama Tree at the San Francisco Playhouse for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a sample: "Director Jon Tracy’s powerful and poignant production feels grounded in reality of the siblings and their fraught, fractious attempts at a relationship, but in the realm of the parents, there’s a lyrical quality filled with love and sadness that elevates the play from kitchen-sink drama to something more."

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Wilder’s genius shines in Shotgun’s Our Town

Jan 04

Wilder’s genius shines in Shotgun’s <i>Our Town</i>

When it comes to the rituals of the New Year – making and abandoning resolutions, vowing to live more fully and with intention, trying not to let time slip away so quickly by living more fully in the present – the most powerful thing you could do for yourself is head over to the Ashby Stage in Berkeley and see Shotgun Players' excellent production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.

This 1938 masterpiece has long been my favorite American play, and aside from its structural genius, its Expressionistic (and still unmatched) theatricality balanced with genuine emotion, Our Town is the self-help book embedded in our nation's consciousness. I've seen the play dozens of times in straightforward productions (like Shotgun's) and over-produced and over-thought re-imaginings, in musical and film versions, in schools and on the professional stage, and every time I come away with something new. More than any other, I feel Our Town in other works when they succeed in connecting audience to play or when they tap into simple truths that need constant reiteration about what the hell we're even doing on this planet.

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Threats of totalitarianism have never been so fun

Dec 08

Threats of totalitarianism have never been so fun

Our sorry political state may be sending the country down the toilet, but it sure is inspiring some grand entertainment. Veep and House of Cards offer two distinct points of view on the absurdity of Beltway power mongering. Lauren Gunderson's The Taming was a comic highlight of last year's local theater scene (review here) in its exploration of political game playing.

Now we have Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's The Totalitarians, a Z Space production in association with Encore Theatre Company and the National New Play Network.

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Breakfast of champions? Aurora chills with Mugabe

Nov 21

Breakfast of champions? Aurora chills with <i>Mugabe</i>

EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 20 Dr. Peric (Dan Hiatt, center) looks to make an exit from his breakfast meeting with Robert Mugabe (L. Peter Callender, left) as presidential bodyguard Gabriel (Adrian Roberts) stands watch in Aurora Theatre Company’s Breakfast with Mugabe. Below: Hiatt’s Dr. Peric has a run in with Mrs. Mugabe (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong). Photos by David...

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Here be dragons: Impact fires up fantastical drama

Nov 09

Here be dragons: Impact fires up fantastical drama

Impact Theatre's The Dragon Play breathes fire into what, at first glance, appears to be a fairly standard issue drama. Playwright Jenny Connell Davis blends the worlds of sci-fi/fantasy with Sam Shepard with surprising and wonderful results.

In only 80 minutes, director Tracy Ward creates two powerful worlds in which stories begin to bleed into one another. That's no mean feat in the cramped quarters of La Val's Subterranean, which offers set and lighting designers the ultimate challenge to turn a basement into a compelling performance space. Catalina Niño (sets) and Jax Steager rise to that challenge, even when the action spills off the stage and into the nether parts of the theater.

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Odds are in favor of SF Playhouse’s 77%

Nov 08

Odds are in favor of SF Playhouse’s <i>77%</i>

The title of Rinne Groff's new play 77% may seem cold and statistical, but it's actually wonderfully charming. You have to see the play to get it, but here's something to know: if you can achieve that percentage with a romantic partner of some kind, you're doing a really good job.

A play about marriage, among other things, 77% receives its world premiere as part of San Francisco Playhouse's Sandbox Series for new plays. It's a remarkable play, in part, because it seems so unremarkable.

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