Sam Shepard feels a Holy song coming on

Jan 12

Sam Shepard feels a <i>Holy</i> song coming on

The new year begins with an intriguing, nearly under-the-radar collaboration. American Conservatory Theater and Campo Santo have jumped into the ring formed by Magic Theatre and dubbed Sheparding America, a far-ranging celebration of Sam Shepard that promises to flare for years to come.

Co-directed by Campo Santo's Sean San José and ACT's Mark Rucker and performed in the near-round at ACT's Costume Shop, Holy Crime: Rock 'n' Roll Sam Shepard is an amalgam of Shepard texts with an infusion of live music. The prologue and epilogue come from 1969's Holy Ghostly and the big chunk in the middle comes from 1972 Tooth of Crime (which Shepard revised in 1997).

The best part of the 85-minute show is...

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2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

Dec 23

2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

If you’re looking for the year’s best, you can shorten your search by heading directly to Word for Word, that ever-amazing group that turns short works of fiction into some of the most captivating theater we see around here. This year, we were graced with two outstanding Word for Word productions. You Know When the Men Are Gone – Word for...

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Wonky tone buries Magic’s Buried Child

Sep 18

Wonky tone buries Magic’s <i>Buried Child</i>

By all rights, the Magic Theatre's season-opening production of Buried Child by Sam Shepard, the man who helped build the Magic's national reputation during his 12-year stay from the mid-'70s into the early '80s, should be a triumph. Continuing the five-year Sheparding America celebration of the writer's work, the production should be a potent reminder of just how electrifying, unsettling and beautiful Shepard's writing can be.

This is not that production.

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Magic reaches a dark, rhythmic Terminus

May 31

Magic reaches a dark, rhythmic <i>Terminus</i>

Safe to say you're not going to see anything like Mark O'Rowe's Terminus, the aptly named conclusion to Magic Theatre's 46th season. If you saw O'Rowe's last show at the Magic, the extraordinary Howie the Rookie 13 years ago, you'll know to expect vivid, visceral language delivered in monologues. That seems to be O'Rowe's specialty, along with depicting the rougher edges of Dublin with a strange sort of compassion and a gift for elemental storytelling that grabs hold and won't let go.

While Howie operated in a familiar street thug/crime world setting, Terminus is something altogether different. Like one of his three characters in the play, O'Rowe pushes himself out on a precarious limb and leaps. There's a distinct criminal element here as well, along with descriptions of violence that are somehow more vivid and horrific than if we were actually seeing them, but there's also a supernatural, even spiritual, aspect to the play that is remarkably moving.

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Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s Happy Ones

Apr 04

Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s <i>Happy Ones</i>

At first the music is loud and fun. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" seems like the perfect audio accompaniment to a grown-up birthday party scene set in a Garden Grove, Califorina, suburban home, where the swimming pool gleams and the neighbors all swing with martinis well in hand.

Then there's silence. Tragedy strikes, and the SoCal dream life has no fitting accompaniment...until it does, and that sound comes from another part of the planet – Vietnam to be exact. There's a smattering of Creedence, of Paul Simon and Randy Newman. And when the good-time music returns, in the form of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime," but the "living the dream" moment has passed, and it's time for new songs and new chapters.

That's the story of The Happy Ones, an achingly beautiful play by Julie Marie Myatt now at Magic Theatre.

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Magic’s Se Llama Cristina or What’s in a name?

Jan 31

Magic’s <i>Se Llama Cristina</i> or What’s in a name?

There are moments when Octavio Solis' darkly poetic writing leaves me breathless. Take this passage from his world-premiere play Se Llama Cristina as two lovers are driving down a lonely highway. The driver looks at his sleeping passenger and says: "And your head is leanin' against the window and the passing cars light up your face like a Hollywood starlet. Famous, then not. Famous, then not."

Truth be told, there are also moments when Solis' writing leaves me befuddled, and that happens, too, in Se Llama Cristina. But confusion and mystery is part of the foundation – albeit rocky a rocky one – on which this intriguing drama is built.

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