Crowded Fire tells a futuristic Tale of Autumn

Sep 19

Crowded Fire tells a futuristic <i>Tale of Autumn</i>

Who are the good guys/bad guys? What truth lies behind smokescreens and lies? And when good guys resort to bad behavior, doesn't that make them bad guys, thus leaving no good guys and obscured truth?

San Francisco playwright Christoper Chen's world-premiere A Tale of Autumn, a commission from Crowded Fire Theater, is all about good gone bad and bad gone worse. Imagine Google, Oprah and the U.S. Government wrestling with notions of altruism and greed and you get some idea of what Chen is up to here.

Read More

Lots to unpack in Crowded Fire’s Shipment

Sep 27

Lots to unpack in Crowded Fire’s <i>Shipment</i>

While Secretary Clinton and The Orange Bloviator were duking it out at the first presidential debate and helping the populace decide the fate of this troubled nation, Crowded Fire Theater was painting its own portrait of America at the opening of Young Jean Lee's The Shipment at the Thick House.

It was an incendiary evening for several reasons, not the least of which was the actual heat wave baking San Francisco.

Read More

Ferocious Lotus unfolds a lovely Crane

Sep 22

Ferocious Lotus unfolds a lovely <i>Crane</i>

The Ferocious Lotus world premiere of JC Lee's Crane is the kind of theater that makes me happy. Here's a small company taking a step up with its first solo production. They're tackling a notable playwright (Lee's work has been seen locally at Impact Theatre and Sleepwalkers Theater and he's a writer for ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder" and HBO's "Looking"), and with a small budget in a small theater (NOHspace), they're making something beautiful.

Read More

Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in Aulis

Mar 07

Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in <i>Aulis</i>

Award-winning San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen gets deep into existential nihilism in his latest world premiere, Aulis: An Act of Nihilism in One Long Act. That title pretty much says it all: Chen takes the premise of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis and gives it a contemporary spin that allows for abundant comedy yet still leads to a bloody, ultimately futile end.

Chen's epic one-act receives a spiffy production from U.C. Berkeley's Theater Dance & Performance Studies Department, which seems appropriate as Chen is a Cal alum and began his playwriting career there.

Read More

Shotgun’s dramatic attack of the clones

Jun 01

Shotgun’s dramatic attack of the clones

p>When playwright Lauren Gunderson arrived on the Bay Area theater scene, she arrived in a big way. First, she blew everyone away with her comedy Exit, Pursued by a Bear and then she proved to be incredibly prolific, with seven plays debuting in two years. Her By and By, having its world premiere at Shotgun Players, is one of three new plays she'll open this year in the Bay Area.

The play, a sort of humanistic/science fiction exploration of what human cloning might really be like, is a great example of why a Gunderson script is so appealing. Delving into the serious implications of creating human beings outside the natural order, Gunderson has one character express it this way: "God is pissed off because you're messing with his shit." And later in the play, she has another character say in chilling tones...

Read More

Tell ‘em that it’s human Nature

Aug 08

Tell ‘em that it’s human <i>Nature</i>

If only the actual apocalypse were going to be so enjoyable.

Hand it to playwright JC Lee for making the end of the world – and after – so lyrical, so funny and so, well, human. That's one of the things I loved about Into the Clear Blue Sky, Part Two of the This World and After trilogy, which kicked off almost exactly a year ago with This World Is Good. There may be monstrous things happening in the world, things that would require millions of dollars worth of CGI to represent on a screen, but Lee's focus is essentially human and relatable.

And that's only appropriate when the topic at hand is the very survival of the human race. In each of his three plays, Lee creates a stage full of seekers, and for his final chapter, they are seeking the future, which is in clear jeopardy. In The Nature Line, Part Three of the trilogy, neither sex nor any human contact of any kind is allowed anymore. Women's wombs have become unable to handle the stress of pregnancy, so that duty now belongs to scientists who help the process along. “Aren’t you relieved to see a corporate model can survive the apocalypse?” asks a crisply dressed fertility nurse.

Read More