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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Simple command: Catch Caught. Now.

Sep 15

Simple command: Catch <i>Caught</i>. Now.

Watching Christopher Chen's new play Caught in its sublime Shotgun Players production is, in a word, disorienting, and that's a good thing. Even clever folk who think they have it all figured out and are hip to what's going on in this mind-twisting play will experience something new here, and it may not be apparent until they leave the theater. Your trust in what is real, what is true (a major theme of the play), will likely have been somewhat shifted. The absurd things that happen to us on a regular basis and all the things we assume are true suddenly seem challenging and connected, as if we've stepped into a Chen play ourselves.

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Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s Erik

Feb 05

Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s <i>Erik</i>

There's a profoundly creepy core to Little Erik the new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1894 Little Eyolf by Mark Jackson, one of the Bay Area's foremost theater artists. That creepiness is the best thing about the 80-minute one-act now at the Aurora Theatre Company. Though even in its brevity, the play can't quite command its shifting tones.

Ibsen's Eyolf probably won't be found on any of his best-of compilations, but Jackson...

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Smart, creepy Nether wows at SF Playhouse

Jan 25

Smart, creepy <i>Nether</i> wows at SF Playhouse

There aren't that many plays with the power to totally creep you out and entertain you mightily. Such is the power of Jennifer Haley's The Nether at San Francisco Playhouse in a production that is stunning in all the right ways.

The play is only 80 minutes, but it packs a mighty wallop. Here you have a play that is, ostensibly, about the rape and murder of children, but it's not horrific. It's nifty sci-fi trick is to set the action in the near future when virtual reality has become a big part of life.

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Uneven tone tilts ACT’s Monstress double bill

Oct 03

Uneven tone tilts ACT’s <i>Monstress</i> double bill

Two of the Bay Area's most interesting theater artists, Philip Kan Gotanda and Sean San José, were asked to adapt a short story from Lysley Tenorio's 2012 collection Monstress for American Conservatory Theater's Strand Theater as part of the company's San Francisco Stories initiative and the New Strands play development and commissioning program.

The results make up the double bill Monstress now at the Strand, and while both plays...

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