SF Playhouse’s Barbecue sizzles

Oct 01

SF Playhouse’s <i>Barbecue</i> sizzles

Robert O'Hara is one of those playwright/directors who, when his name is attached to a project in any way, you pay attention. He's smart, funny and has a keen eye for theatrical disruption. His Insurrection: Holding History may have played at American Conservatory Theater almost 20 years ago, but it remains one of the wildest, most wonderful things I've seen from that company.

O'Hara – the playwright – is back in town with Barbecue, the first show in San Francisco Playhouse's 15th season, and here's what's on the grill: ...

Read More

Joy, power of stories in Cal Shakes black odyssey

Aug 13

Joy, power of stories in Cal Shakes <i>black odyssey</i>

Just when it seems the news can't get any worse, it gets worse. This weekend in Virginia we saw some of the worst of humanity, with terror, death, hatred and ignorance all on full display. At such times, it can be hard not to give in to that helpless, hopeless feeling of things ever getting better, of our species ever giving over to our better natures rather than constantly reveling our worst.

Then there's art. In a quirk of timing for which I will be forever grateful, California Shakespeare Theater opened a new production Saturday night at the Bruns Amphitheater amid the full chilly summer glory of the Orinda Hills. It wasn't just any production, but one so suited to our troubled times that it seems we should find some way to broadcast it nationally over and over.

Read More

Sad, hopeful elegy in Shotgun’s brownsville song

Jun 23

Sad, hopeful elegy in Shotgun’s <i>brownsville song</i>

Playwright Kimber Lee's brownsville song (b-side for tray) offers a poignant reminder that our grim news feeds are built of lives, not just of victims and perpetrators and garbage politicians but also of the lives connected to those lives and the ripples that overlap with ripples that overlap with ripples.

Read More

Wonderful women in Word for Word’s Aunt Hagar

Nov 20

Wonderful women in Word for Word’s <i>Aunt Hagar</i>

What you remember from Word for Word's production of All Aunt Hagar's Children, a full theatrical adaptation of the short story by Edward P. Jones, are the women. Such women. They make an impression on the audience the way they make an impression the story's narrator, a nameless young man who returned to his native Washington, D.C., nine months ago after serving in the Korean War.

Read More

Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush Velvet

May 25

Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush <i>Velvet</i>

In its West Coast premiere production at San Francisco Playhouse, Red Velvet provides a plum starring role for the great Carl Lumbly, who tackles the role of Ira Aldridge with depth and gravity. This is a serious actor playing a serious actor whose concern is more for getting the role right than playing into the bile being spewed in his general direction for daring to be a black man playing a black man in the ultra-white world of the theater.

Read More

Trekking gently through O’Neill’s nostalgic Wilderness

Oct 22

Trekking gently through O’Neill’s nostalgic <i>Wilderness</i>

Can we agree that Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! is warm and wonderful...and weird? The sepia-tinted 1933 play is a rare light work from tragedian O'Neill, though its fantasy elements – the family O'Neill wished he had growing up rather than the more nightmarish version he depicted in Long Day's Journey Into Night – lend it a rather sad underpinning.

It's almost as if O'Neill strayed into Kaufman and Hart territory long enough to write the four-act play about...

Read More