Turning on a paradigm in Magic’s HIR

Feb 05

Turning on a paradigm in Magic’s <i>HIR</i>

The last time Taylor Mac was in town, he gave us the five-hour Lily's Revenge with glitter, drag queens, a cast of 40 and so much dazzling theatricality that we were able to withstand his absence in the following three years (read my Lily's Revenge review here)

Mac has continued to wow audiences in shows like his two-man outing with Mandy Patinkin or La Ma Ma's acclaimed The Good Person of Szechwan, but the Magic Theatre was able to lure him back to present the world premiere of something entirely different than Lily's Revenge. This time out, Mac is the playwright of HIR (pronounced like "here"), a fairly traditional two-act, two-plus-hour play that seems like a sitcom filtered through Mac's gender-fluid, ragingly intelligent, funny and passionate artistry.

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Here’s an idea: go see SF Playhouse’s Ideation. Now.

Nov 22

Here’s an idea: go see SF Playhouse’s <i>Ideation</i>. Now.

Don't you love it when a new play starts out and you really like it, then it turns into something else and you like it even more? That's what happens with Ideation, a world-premiere play by local scribe Aaron Loeb that is part of San Francisco Playhouse's Sandbox Series, an incubator for new plays.

As new plays, Ideation is in remarkably good shape primarily because Loeb's writing is so smart, sharp and full of grounding humor. It also helps that director Josh Costello has ...

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Good People is good theater at Marin Theatre Co.

Aug 28

<i>Good People</i> is good theater at Marin Theatre Co.

There's something to be said for a play that is simply good. Not earth shattering or even profound. It may not take the form of drama in new and exciting directions or reinvent the notion of entertainment, but a good play does indeed entertain.

David Lindsay-Abaire is a smart, funny, compassionate writer who makes good plays (and happens to have a Pulitzer Prize on his shelf for the play Rabbit Hole). They have depth and feeling and almost always a good laugh or two (or three). His most recent arrival in the Bay Area is Good People, a slice-of-life comedy/drama receiving its local premiere as the season-opener for Marin Theatre Company.

And here's what's really interesting: not only is the play about something – choices, luck and the American class system – but also manages to be heartfelt, thoroughly entertaining and, at times, even a little unsettling.

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Marin’s Godot and the impression we exist

Jan 30

Marin’s <i>Godot</i> and the impression we exist

I suspect Samuel Beckett knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote Waiting for Godot and left more questions unanswered than answered. The less specific you are, the more your audience members project their own business onto the characters and their situation.

The world Beckett creates could be the depressed past or the post-apocalyptic future. He could be writing about God and religion or about the hell of human existence. His main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, could be clowns or tragic figures or both. It's all up for discussion, open for interpretation. Everything is symbolic or nothing is symbolic and just is what it is and the population has increased. And that's the genius of Beckett and the joy of his most famous play.

The current production at Marin Theatre Company...

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Just Wilde over Aurora’s Salomania

Jun 22

Just Wilde over Aurora’s <i>Salomania</i>

If only a 94-year-old scandal were sensational in ways we no longer understood, we could look back and wonder what all the fuss was about and why the media underestimated the taste of the general public and why the general public was so content to be constantly underestimated.

Alas, not much has changed since the early 20th century criminal libel suit that American dancer Maud Allan brought against British newspaper publisher Noel Pemberton-Billing after he described the interest in her dance piece Vision of Salomé as the "cult of the clitoris." That was the headline he used in his paper, the Vigilante, to describe the moral reprobates who were attracted to Allan's version of the play by Oscar Wilde, which had been banned since Wilde's very public downfall.

What we learn in Mark Jackson's fascinating and at moments electrifying new play Salomania is that the media, though their aims may be occasionally true, are a pawn in larger political games and panderers to public taste, which they help shape.

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TheatreWorks designs with Sense and Sensibility

Aug 25

TheatreWorks designs with <i>Sense</i> and <i>Sensibility</i>

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, I talk with TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelley, set designer Joe Ragey and costume designer Fumiko Bielefeldt about their work on bringing Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility to the stage.

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