Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s Erik

Feb 05

Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s <i>Erik</i>

There's a profoundly creepy core to Little Erik the new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1894 Little Eyolf by Mark Jackson, one of the Bay Area's foremost theater artists. That creepiness is the best thing about the 80-minute one-act now at the Aurora Theatre Company. Though even in its brevity, the play can't quite command its shifting tones.

Ibsen's Eyolf probably won't be found on any of his best-of compilations, but Jackson...

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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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Taylor Mac cycles through American song

Jan 22

Taylor Mac cycles through American song

Taylor Mac emerges, godlike, from the mezzanine, resplendent in a sparkling headdress and gown, and from the stage of the Curran Theatre, where the audience is seated, it looks like the lowered chandelier is actually the crowning part of his ensemble.

Once Mac makes his way to the stage, where he joins his nine-piece band, he may appear less godlike – the dress, on closer inspection, is part tawdry tease, part used car lot banners and tinsel – but remains no less impressive.

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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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Shotgun sets a vivacious vintage Mousetrap

Dec 12

Shotgun sets a vivacious vintage <i>Mousetrap</i>

Even though Agatha Christie's most famous, play The Mousetrap, is the longest-running show of any kind in the world (the London production is in its 64th year, with more than 25,000 performances logged) and is performed by school and community theaters on a regular basis, I had never seen it. Nor had I heard one peep about whodunnit, which is really something for such a popular play

So when Berkeley's Shotgun Players announced The Mousetrap as part of its season of women playwrights, I was thrilled at the prospect of at last seeing the play performed by an exciting, enterprising company.

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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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