Shooting the rapids and tweaking history in ACT’s Men on Boats

Nov 02

Shooting the rapids and tweaking history in ACT’s <i>Men on Boats</i>

Oars up! Oars out! We're going adventuring.

The first thrill of our adventure is the sheer delight of seeing 10 women on stage – 10! – in the American Conservatory Theater production of Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus now at The Strand Theater. How often do we get to see that many marvelous women on a stage together? Hardly ever.

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Shotgun’s curious Watson: more than elementary

Aug 11

Shotgun’s curious <i>Watson</i>: more than elementary

Except for the flying cars, we are pretty much living The Jetsons, and we take it in stride. Playwright Madeleine George attempts to knock some wonder – and perspective – into us in her play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, now at Berkeley's Ashby Stage in Shotgun Players production. George tackles one of the key issues of our time – how, with all this instant and constant digital connection, can we still be so isolated – but does so in a clever way.

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Amazing women open doors in The Roommate

May 28

Amazing women open doors in <i>The Roommate</i>

There are several wonderful things about Jen Silverman's The Roommate now at San Francisco Playhouse, not the least of which is that it seriously considers the lives of two women in their 50s and their attempts to grow and change and correct what they perceive as some of the missteps of their lives. The nearly two-hour one-act play, directed by Becca Wolff, is also heartily entertaining, contains some satisfying laughs and creates a showcase for two dynamic actors to create complex characters that are full of surprises.

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Delight and loss dance through Magic’s Waltz revival

Mar 30

Delight and loss dance through Magic’s <i>Waltz</i> revival

Any of us would be lucky – beyond lucky – to be as loved as Paula Vogel's brother Carl. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (who, after nearly 50 years as one of the country's preeminent playwrights, will see her first Broadway opening next month with Indecent) wrote The Baltimore Waltz a year after Carl died of complications from AIDS. This is her tribute to him, a love letter from sister to brother, but she accomplishes this with such offbeat originality, whimsy and heart that there's no room for sentimentality or feeble clichés about love and loss.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Magic Theatre has revived The Baltimore Waltz 25 years after hosting its West Coast premiere.

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Aurora’s Leni asks: Great artist, Nazi sympathizer or both?

Mar 17

Aurora’s <i>Leni</i> asks: Great artist, Nazi sympathizer or both?

As a dramatic work, Sarah Greenman's Leni about the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, has to juggle history, artistry and, now, discomfiting parallels to our own time. Was Riefenstahl the right artist at the wrong time? Was her extraordinary talent as a filmmaker overshadowed by Hitler and the Nazi party? Or was she a Nazi sympathizer and, consequently, as the show puts it, "a willing architect of Nazi mythology and, worse, an accomplice to genocide?

There aren't any easy answers in this 85-minute one-act play now at the intimate Harry's UpStage space at the Aurora Theatre Company.

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Bouncy around here: Shotgun’s Virginia Woolf howls

Oct 21

Bouncy around here: Shotgun’s <i>Virginia Woolf</i> howls

Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is famous for being, among other things, a night in the life of a querulous quartet, a four-part marital slugfest, a boozy broadside in four parts. In other words, four actors fighting, lashing out, drinking and suffering. All of that is present and accounted for in director Mark Jackson's production concluding Shotgun Players' 25th anniversary season. But it feels like there's another character here.

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