Race, politics, compassion at odds in riveting Confederates

Jul 17

Race, politics, compassion at odds in riveting <i>Confederates</i>

A troubled presidential campaign provides the setting for Suzanne Bradbeer's Confederates, a thrilling world-premiere drama from TheatreWorks Silicon Valley now at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Developed, in part, at TheatreWorks' New Works Festival, this three-person one-act slices into the heart of modern politics and journalism. Bradbeer comes from a realistic perspective in terms of the degradation of modern journalism and the obfuscating chaos surrounding a presidential campaign, but she might rely on types – the noble young journalism, the crusty older journalist, the naive candidate's daughter – those types deepen into characters with depth, complication and easily relatable flaws, ambitions and conundrums.

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Campo goes seriously sci-fi with Hookers on Mars

Jul 02

Campo goes seriously sci-fi with <i>Hookers on Mars</i>

What's the last great work of dramatic science fiction you saw on a stage? Maybe you'll have to get back to me on that one. Sci-fi, while stellar (in every sense) in comics, games, books, big screens and small screens, has not generally been a successful theatrical genre. Shakespeare, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams all neglected to set any of their dramas in space, which does seem a shame.

For whatever reason – maybe it's just too much a suspension of disbelief to be in the same roof with actors pretending to be in space, in the future, etc. without feeling a kitschy '70s flashback – sci-fi will likely remain successful outside the theater. But then again there's H.O.M.E. (Hookers on Mars Eventually), a world-premiere play by Star Finch now receiving its world premiere from Campo Santo.

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Money trumps all in MTC’s fascinating Invisible Hand

Jun 08

Money trumps all in MTC’s fascinating <i>Invisible Hand</i>

Marin Theatre Company concludes its 49th season with a play that is timely for this election cycle to be sure, but because its focus is on the powerful religion known as money, it's really timely all the time.

The Invisible Hand by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced), is set in the Middle East, involves Muslim extremists and traffics in terrorism in the form of a potentially lucrative (and vengeful) kidnapping of American banker Nick Bright. But the most fascinating aspect of the drama is ...

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Reality vs. imagination in ACT’s appealing Chester Bailey

Jun 03

Reality vs. imagination in ACT’s appealing <i>Chester Bailey</i>

In Joseph Dougherty's Chester Bailey, it's reality vs. imagination, and the audience wins.

This world-premiere production from American Conservatory Theater is a modest two-hander performed in the intimate Strand Theater, an old-fashioned feeling play woven through with dry humor and compassion. Think of it sort of as an Oliver Sacks case history come to life with a modicum of theatrical flair.

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Ruhl peters out in Berkeley Rep’s For Peter Pan

May 28

Ruhl peters out in Berkeley Rep’s <i>For Peter Pan</i>

Sarah Ruhl is a brilliant writer capable of intellectual heights and emotional depths. Her latest play, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, now at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre, displays few of those qualities.

Paired with director Les Waters with whom she worked so memorably on Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) at Berkeley Rep, Ruhl is working in mysterious ways here.

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Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush Velvet

May 25

Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush <i>Velvet</i>

In its West Coast premiere production at San Francisco Playhouse, Red Velvet provides a plum starring role for the great Carl Lumbly, who tackles the role of Ira Aldridge with depth and gravity. This is a serious actor playing a serious actor whose concern is more for getting the role right than playing into the bile being spewed in his general direction for daring to be a black man playing a black man in the ultra-white world of the theater.

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