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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Cal Shakes closes with apocalyptic King Lear

Sep 20

Cal Shakes closes with apocalyptic <i>King Lear</i>

When California Shakespeare Theater ended the 2007 season with a heavy, industrial-looking King Lear, opening night was a cold one in the Bruns Amphitheater (read my review here). Eight years later, Cal Shakes once again ends the season with another heavy, industrial-looking Lear, but opening night was one of the rare ones when you could have worn short sleeves throughout (most of) the 2 1/2-hour tragedy. There's just something delicious about...

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Magic’s Five Minutes misses the mark

Apr 06

Magic’s <i>Five Minutes</i> misses the mark

I loved Linda McLean's Any Given Day so much that I proclaimed it my favorite show of 2012 (read my review here). And that makes it all the harder to convey just how much I disliked her world premiere Every Five Minutes at the Magic Theatre.

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Wonky tone buries Magic’s Buried Child

Sep 18

Wonky tone buries Magic’s <i>Buried Child</i>

By all rights, the Magic Theatre's season-opening production of Buried Child by Sam Shepard, the man who helped build the Magic's national reputation during his 12-year stay from the mid-'70s into the early '80s, should be a triumph. Continuing the five-year Sheparding America celebration of the writer's work, the production should be a potent reminder of just how electrifying, unsettling and beautiful Shepard's writing can be.

This is not that production.

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Extraordinary Day dawns at the Magic

Apr 12

Extraordinary <i>Day</i> dawns at the Magic

Linda McLean's Any Given Day, now having its American premiere at the Magic Theatre, is theater for grown-ups. There's nothing fanciful or sensational about. It's basically duet conversations in two acts and less than 90 minutes. But the richness of McLean's language, seemingly so simple yet so precise in defining the characters and their relationships to each other and to the world.

The pain and sadness is palpable in these people, yet so are the passing moments of joy and kindness and good humor. McLean's world is full of the kind of emotional upheaval you only get to see when you spend time with people and see what's really happening with them under their reasonably calm, reasonably functional exterior selves. To catch glimpses of the real turmoil underneath is an astonishing achievement, and that's what McLean and this powerful production manage to accomplish.

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Adjusting to a Period of lighter Tennessee Williams

Dec 06

Adjusting to a <i>Period</i> of lighter Tennessee Williams

As a fading Southern belle in a Tennessee Williams play might say, "Well I do declare! What's a theatergoer to do with so many scrumptious Williams play from which to choose?"

The answer is: see all of them. As we come to the end of Williams' centenary year, it seems only appropriate to be reveling in the writer's work. Marin Theatre Company recently opened a lovely production of The Glass Menagerie (read my review here), and in January, Theatre Rhinoceros presents The Two-Character Play, which Williams claimed was his "most beautiful play since Streetcar."

There's no mistaking Williams' A Period of Adjustment, now at SF Playhouse, for one of his most beautiful plays. Nor is it even one of his most interesting. But it is fascinating for a number of reasons. Written in 1960, between Sweet Bird of Youth and The Night of the Iguana, Adjustment is Williams working in sitcom mode as if to prove that he's capable of something lighter.

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