To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in Wittenberg

Apr 11

To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in <i>Wittenberg</i>

You don't have to have a college degree to enjoy David Davalos' Wittenberg a the Aurora Theatre Company, but it sure will help.

If 16th-century academia is your thing, then you probably already know all about Wittenberg, the German university made famous as the seat of higher learning from which young Prince Hamlet of Denmark returned home after his father's murder.

Wittenberg also happens to be where Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, theologian and lecturer, nailed his 95 provocative thoughts on a church door and sparked the Protestant Reformation. And, to keep things interesting, the hallowed university happens to be where Christopher Marlowe's fictional Dr. Faustus practiced his dark arts.

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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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Va-va-va Venus! ACT’s Fur flies

Mar 27

Va-va-va <i>Venus</i>! ACT’s <i>Fur</i> flies

Is it just me, or is it hot in this theater?

Live theater is not usually a hotbed of eroticism – so often attempts at sexiness inspire laughs more than they do accelerated heart rates – but the Bay Area of late has been home to some theatrical sexy time. First we got hot and heavy with polyamory in Carson Kreitzer's Lasso of Truth at Marin Theatre Company (read my review here), which featured Wonder Woman's creator happily submitting to the many strengths of his wife and his girlfriend (who also generated their own heat independent of the man).

And now we have David Ives' scintillating (for lots of reasons) Venus in Fur, in which dog collars, leather bustiers, thigh-high black leather boots and degradation play significant parts.

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Crowded Fire saddles up comic Horses

Mar 25

Crowded Fire saddles up comic <i>Horses</i>

There's something very sly at work in She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange, the world-premiere from Amelia Roper with Crowded Fire Theater at the Thick House. From looking at the vivid, sharply designed set by Maya Linke, with its paper sculpture trees and angled artificial grass, it's clear this is not going to be just any walk in the park.

But that's exactly how the play starts: a Sunday in a suburban Connecticut park...

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Realistic portrait of the abstract artist in SF Playhouse’s Bauer

Mar 23

Realistic portrait of the abstract artist in SF Playhouse’s <i>Bauer</i>

A mysterious chapter in modern art history receives some theatrical exploration in the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson's Bauer at San Francisco Playhouse. If you've never heard of the abstract painter Rudolf Bauer, whom some considered a genius beyond contemporaries like Kandinsky and Klee, that may have something to do with the fact that the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which was built to display his work, kept them instead in the basement out of public view.

That's one of the issues addressed in Bauer, a three-person drama by Gunderson, San Francisco's most prolific and produced playwright.

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Fo-pas: Laughing (or not) through Accidental Death

Mar 13

Fo-pas: Laughing (or not) through <i>Accidental Death</i>

Maybe you have to be in the right mood for a satirically slapstick political farce. I can tell you I was definitely in no mood for satirically slapstick political farce – not that I knew that when I sat down to watch the Berkeley Repertory Theatre/Yale Repertory Theatre production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo.

The last time director Christopher Bayes and his merry band of clowns came to Berkeley Rep – two years ago with Molière's A Doctor in Spite of Himself (read my review here), I was thoroughly delighted by the expertly calibrated zaniness. Now...

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