Empty Nesters explores a grand marital canyon

May 21

<i>Empty Nesters</i> explores a grand marital canyon

A marriage heads over a cliff, literally, in Garret Jon Groenveld's The Empty Nesters, a co-production of PlayGround and Virago Theatre Company and part of PlayGround's 19th annual Festival of New Works.

Luckily, the cliff in question is on the western rim of the Grand Canyon, and there happens to be a popular tourist spot called Skywalk that allows visitors to make a u-shaped jaunt on a glass walkway, with the canyon floor more than 3,000 feet below them.

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One man, two guvnors & 102 belly laughs

May 16

One man, two guvnors & 102 belly laughs

Francis Henshall may be one sandwich short of a picnic, as they say, but that's one of many reasons One Man, Two Guvnors is so much fun. Francis' hunger literally drives the first act's zaniness, and truth be told, once that hunger is satisfied, the farce loses a bit (but certainly not all) of its oomph. Thankfully there's a perky skiffle band on stage to keep things bouncing along.

Oh, if only all adaptations could be this fun. When playwright Richard Bean decided to pull Carlo Goldoni's 18th-century comedy into a specific time and place in the 20th century – Brighton, England, 1963 – he did so with an eye to heightening and broadening the comedy from its Venetian origins.

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Hooked from the start on Yee’s Hookman

May 10

Hooked from the start on Yee’s <i>Hookman</i>

Leave it playwright Lauren Yee to bring clear definition to the sub-genre "existential slasher comedy." That's exactly what her Hookman is, a fascinating world-premiere play from Encore Theatre Company that draws laughs from teen speak and the usual first year of college tropes but blends in a rich and disturbing examination of loss, responsibility, maturity and what it is to be a young woman in the 21st century.

Is the man with the hook a real serial killer?

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Aurora’s Fifth of July more cherry bomb than firework

May 07

Aurora’s <i>Fifth of July</i> more cherry bomb than firework

It's easy to imagine how, in 1978, Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July was remarkable for several reasons. It featured a loving gay couple at the center of its family-friend-reunion plot and didn't make a big deal about it. That's not what the play is about, but the couple and their relationship are as important as any other on stage. Also, the play wrestles with the repercussions of the 1960s anti-war movements and how all that passionate activism evolved, and in many cases, dissipated into the '70s.

Some have compared Wilson to Chekhov, and it's easy to see why...

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Trials, tribulations in powerful Passes at Berkeley Rep

Apr 18

Trials, tribulations in powerful <i>Passes</i> at Berkeley Rep

Some houses leak when it rains. For Shelah, the deluge inside is almost as severe as the one outside, and that's just the water. The metaphorical flood – of tragedy – has only just begun.

Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes, a co-production of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and New York's Public Theater, takes its cue from Job, the world's most famous sufferer and faith questioner. This time out, the one who will pray on bended knee and shake her fist at God is Shelah, the matriarch of a family whose Louisiana home sits where three forks of the Mississippi River come together in a wetlands area known as Head of Passes.

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Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater Antigonick

Mar 27

Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater <i>Antigonick</i>

It's a museum piece come to life, a poem that dances, a classic that feels ultra-modern. Shotgun Players' Antigonick is all that and more, including somewhat baffling and exhausting.

You don't go into a Mark Jackson show expecting theatrical pablum. Jackson has long been one of the Bay Area's most interesting theater makers – intelligent, audacious, boundary pushing and always, always interesting. He tends to merge varying styles of theater, often very physical, but always in service of storytelling and emotion.

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