2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

Dec 23

2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

If you’re looking for the year’s best, you can shorten your search by heading directly to Word for Word, that ever-amazing group that turns short works of fiction into some of the most captivating theater we see around here. This year, we were graced with two outstanding Word for Word productions. You Know When the Men Are Gone – Word for...

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Campo Santo, Cal Shakes do some Califas dreaming

Nov 04

Campo Santo, Cal Shakes do some Califas dreaming

There's something extraordinary happening at Intersection for the Arts, and only part of it has to do with theater. Intersection, along with Campo Santo and California Shakespeare Theater have been partners for years, but their current collaboration is kind of staggering.

It began back last April with a production of Richard Montoya's The River directed by Campo Santo's Sean San José (read my review here) and continued with Cal Shakes' season opener, Montoya's American Night: The Ballad of Juan José in June starring San José and directed by Jonathan Moscone (read my review here).

Now we have the culmination of the collaboration in the Califas Festival, a multimedia exploration of what it means to be a Californian.

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A Night to remember as Cal Shakes opens season

Jun 02

A <i>Night</i> to remember as Cal Shakes opens season

Spring and early summer 2013 may well be remembered as the Great Montoya Surge.

In April, Richard Montoya – one third of the legendary San Francisco-born comedy trio Culture Clash – premiered a play with Campo Santo called The River (read the review here), and it was funny and brash and heartfelt and messy and pretty wonderful. It had to do with, among other things, death and immigration, and it made you crave more Montoya work.

We didn't have to wait long. Montoya's American Night: The Ballad of Juan José opened the California Shakespeare Theater season Saturday on a night so warm and beautiful under the stars in Orinda you wonder why every play can't be done outdoors (how quickly we forget those freezing cold, windy, foggy nights when nary a star is visible).

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Campo Santo’s wild ride on a raging River

Apr 16

Campo Santo’s wild ride on a raging <i>River</i>

Some rivers run with water. This one is a torrent of words – some really extraordinary words.

Campo Santo and Intersection for the Arts' world premiere of The River, a dazzling fusion of poetry, comedy, satire, loss and beauty, heralds the welcome return of Culture Clash's Richard Montoya, who has become a powerful theatrical force. Montoya's American Night: The Ballad of Juan José was a triumph at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has gone on to be produced around the country. Bay Area audiences will get a second helping of Montoya when American Night opens the season for California Shakespeare Festival in June.

What's so exciting about Montoya's voice is...

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Magic’s Se Llama Cristina or What’s in a name?

Jan 31

Magic’s <i>Se Llama Cristina</i> or What’s in a name?

There are moments when Octavio Solis' darkly poetic writing leaves me breathless. Take this passage from his world-premiere play Se Llama Cristina as two lovers are driving down a lonely highway. The driver looks at his sleeping passenger and says: "And your head is leanin' against the window and the passing cars light up your face like a Hollywood starlet. Famous, then not. Famous, then not."

Truth be told, there are also moments when Solis' writing leaves me befuddled, and that happens, too, in Se Llama Cristina. But confusion and mystery is part of the foundation – albeit rocky a rocky one – on which this intriguing drama is built.

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Magic time, or what’s all the Bruja-ha?

Jun 20

Magic time, or what’s all the <i>Bruja</i>-ha?

Sometimes names are facts. Like now – there's magic at the Magic Theatre.

The play is Luis Alfaro's world-premiere Bruja, and it's extraordinarily powerful. Even better, it has one foot very firmly grounded in the real world, and the other somewhere else that's hard to describe, but rather than being some twinkly netherworld, this supernatural zone can be dangerous. And deadly.

Being an adaptation of Euripides' Medea, you know this experience wont' end happily. But what you might not know is that Alfaro, who scored at the Magic two years ago with his award-winning Oedipus el Rey, is going to make you care and he'll freak you out a little, maybe a lot.

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