Smart, creepy Nether wows at SF Playhouse

Jan 25

Smart, creepy <i>Nether</i> wows at SF Playhouse

There aren't that many plays with the power to totally creep you out and entertain you mightily. Such is the power of Jennifer Haley's The Nether at San Francisco Playhouse in a production that is stunning in all the right ways.

The play is only 80 minutes, but it packs a mighty wallop. Here you have a play that is, ostensibly, about the rape and murder of children, but it's not horrific. It's nifty sci-fi trick is to set the action in the near future when virtual reality has become a big part of life.

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Pops is tops in ACT’s Satchmo

Jan 21

Pops is tops in ACT’s <i>Satchmo</i>

John Douglas Thompson is tall and handsome, which is to say, he looks nothing like Louis Armstrong. But so deft is Thompson's performance as the legendary trumpeter in Terry Teachout's captivating Satchmo at the Waldorf that audiences could almost swear they were in the company of the late, great man himself.

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Bright, shiny Christmas Story musical delights

Dec 10

Bright, shiny <i>Christmas Story</i> musical delights

I remember seeing A Christmas Story in the movie theater in 1983 (I was in high school), and since then, I've probably seen it 50 times or so (in whole or in part) on TV. It helps that TBS has been known to show it in constant rotation for days. So I have affection for the movie and for Jean Shepherd the man who created it (and narrated the movie is wonderfully droll, comforting voice). It's no surprise that this beloved Story has been adapted for the stage as a play (by Philip Grecian, which popped up at the now-extinct San Jose Repertory Theatre a few times) and now as a big old Broadway-style musical.

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Merry murderous mayhem in musical Gentleman’s Guide

Dec 03

Merry murderous mayhem in musical <i>Gentleman’s Guide</i>

You really do root for the murderer in the delightful A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder. That may seem an insensitive scene in these brutal, terrifying days we're living in, but the reality is that this musical comedy (based on a novel by Roy Horniman, which in turn inspired the wonderful 1949 movie Kind Hearts and Coronets) is all about karma. What you put into the world comes back to you.

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Odysseo: full gallop gorgeous

Nov 20

<i>Odysseo</i>: full gallop gorgeous

If Bojack Horseman and Mr. Ed count, I can say I'm a horse person. I fell off the back of a running stallion as a child while visiting relatives on a farm in Idaho (that horse really wanted to get back to the stable), and I know people who love horses beyond all measure. But when it comes right down to it, I'm not a horse guy. But I sure do like watching horses running around and doing tricks in the epic new equestrian extravaganza Odysseo.

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If/Then? No/Thanks.

Nov 13

<i>If/Then</i>? No/Thanks.

If/Then is not a musical I like much. I saw it on Broadway because I was enthusiastic about creators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey after their powerhouse effort on Next to Normal (a show that I had problems with but admired). My reaction – meh – was very much the same when I saw the show in its touring incarnation featuring much of the original cast, including star Idina Menzel.

There are some pretty melodies, good songs and affecting moments in the show, primarily courtesy of an excellent cast working hard to make something of this rather mushy tale.

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