Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

Dec 28

Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

The theater event that shook my year and reverberated through it constantly didn't happen on Bay Area stage. Like so many others, I was blown away by Hamilton on Broadway in May and then on repeat and shuffle with the original cast album (and, later in the year, the Hamilton Mix Tape) ever since. Shifting focus back home, theater in the San Francisco Bay Area continues to be a marvel, which is really something given the hostile economic environment arts groups are facing around here.

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Holiday cheer in SF Playhouse’s sparkling She Loves Me

Dec 01

Holiday cheer in SF Playhouse’s sparkling <i>She Loves Me</i>

p>The 1963 musical She Loves Me is just a little gem of a musical – full of melody and charm and camaraderie and romance. The recent Broadway revival made a case for the show as sturdy, funny showcase for actors who can perfectly balance realism and musical comedy in a way that makes the show feel intimate and lived in even while it traffics in song and dance.

Just in time for the holidays, San Francisco Playhouse polishes this gem to a sparkling shine.

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Heat, sizzle fire up SF Playhouse’s Seared

Oct 02

Heat, sizzle fire up SF Playhouse’s <i>Seared</i>

I'm going to spoil something right off the bat about Theresa Rebeck's fantastic new play Seared now receiving its world premiere from San Francisco Playhouse: there is no conventional romance. Just because the cast consists of one woman and three men does not mean there's going to be a burgeoning love story or a sordid triangle or break-ups or make-ups. No, the central love story comes out of a friendship and business partnership between a chef and a money guy who open a small restaurant in Brooklyn.

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Grins, gams and gumshoes in SF Playhouse Angels

Jul 14

Grins, gams and gumshoes in SF Playhouse <i>Angels</i>

It's real vs. reel in the San Francisco Playhouse summer musical, City of Angels, a delightfully jazzy take on film noir, greed the constant battle between commerce and art.

This 1989 Broadway hit, with a dazzling score by the great Cy Coleman (music) and David Zippel (lyrics) and a genuinely funny book by Larry Gelbart is a real treat, and it's nice to see that SF Playhouse's musicals just get stronger and stronger.

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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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Theater as contact sport in SF Playhouse’s dazzling Colossal

Mar 24

Theater as contact sport in SF Playhouse’s dazzling <i>Colossal</i>

Colossal at San Francisco Playhouse is a (foot)balls-out theatrical experience that manages to provoke thought and elicit feeling all the while it dazzles with its aggressive stagecraft.

Andrew Hinderaker's play sets up theater as a competitive sport, that is, this play is competing with itself by placing a large scoreboard-type timer above the stage and letting four quarters unfold in real time over an hour. Then there's also the turf-covered playing field (set by Bill English), the bright Friday night-style lights (design by Kurt Landisman) and the ear-piercing whistles (sound design by Theodore J. H. Hulsker). This is more than a stage for a play: it's a playing field ready for intense action.

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