Chen’s Hundred Flowers wins the Glickman

Jan 22

Chen’s <i>Hundred Flowers</i> wins the Glickman

This being awards season, it's nice to temper all the movie accolades with a homegrown theater award. The Glickman Award, presented each year to the best play that had its world premiere in the Bay Area, comes with a $4,000 cash prize and the honor of having your work set alongside other Glickman winners like Tony Kushner, Denis Johnson and Octavio Solis.

This year's winner is...

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Crowded Fire: Please sir, may I have some Mao?

Oct 30

Crowded Fire: Please sir, may I have some Mao?

If Apple or some other high-tech giant was really smart, really forward thinking, they'd head down to the Thick House and check out the West Coast premiere of Christopher Chen's The Hundred Flowers Project, a play that not only has a lot to say about our instantly archived society and its millions of digital histories but also utilizes technology in a fascinating way.

There's something utterly primal about the premise of this Crowded Fire/Playwrights Foundation co-production: members of a San Francisco theater collective gather to create, in the most organic, zeitgeist-melding way, a dazzling piece of theater about the life and rule of Mao Tse Tung that has deep metaphorical connection to our own times. These theater folk are pretentious – the words "zeitgeist" and "congealing" are used so often they may cause indigestion – but they're also real artists trying to create something new and interesting and meaningful.

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2010 in the rearview mirror: My Top 10

Dec 27

2010 in the rearview mirror: My Top 10

I did two things I'm proud of this year. I worked for a great theater company and I stopped working for a great theater company. From June 2009 to September 2010, I was the communications manager for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and it was a fantastic experience. For a critic to jump the fence and experience a theater company from the inside was the education of a lifetime.

A job change in September allowed me to go back to writing and reviewing with a renewed vigor and appreciation for the art of theater.

And my timing couldn't have been better. All of a sudden, with the launch of the fall season, it seemed that the Bay Area was the epicenter of all good theater. With Compulsion at Berkeley Rep, Scapin at American Conservatory Theater and the opening of The Brother/Sister Plays at Marin Theatre Company, there was great theater everywhere you turned.

Herewith, a conventional Top 10 list for 2010 – starting at No. 10 and working toward No. 1.

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Jesus and his extraordinary Mississippi moonwalk

Mar 21

Jesus and his extraordinary <i>Mississippi</i> moonwalk

On the theatrical spectrum, this is the exact opposite of the sitcom-ready Sunset and Margaritas now at TheatreWorks (read my review of that play in the Palo Alto Weekly here), which is to say this is challenging, thought-provoking material given the kind of sharply etched production that inspires curiosity and wonder. There's nothing easy about Moonwalks, and that's a good thing. Gardley, working with director Amy Mueller, weaves myth, folklore, American Civil War history, personal family history and musings on race in this country.

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The (puppet) theory of (puppet) relativity

May 16

Here’s an intriguing subtitle: “A found-object puppetry play inside the mind of Albert Einstein.” That subtitle is attached to One Stone: Einstein, a work-in-progress from two of the Bay Area’s leading theatrical lights: playwright Trevor Allen and puppeteer Liebe Wetzel (along with her Lunatique Fantastique puppeteers). The play, which...

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