Nick & Nora and musical theater necrophilia

Apr 05

<i>Nick & Nora</i> and musical theater necrophilia

The greatest crime the musical Nick & Nora seems to have committed in its ill-fated 1991 debut was not being nearly as good as it should have been and not being nearly the catastrophe everyone had imagined. The notorious musical is based on Dashiel Hammett's final novel, The Thin Man from 1933, which was turned into the more memorable series of Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as soigné sophisticates Nick and Nora Charles, who also solve crimes.

Nick & Nora has not been fully produced since its Broadway demise (72 previews and only a week of performances following the disastrous reviews), which is why we love 42nd Street Moon, the company that dusts off the flawed, forgotten and factious musicals of old and allows a contemporary audience to see what's actually there.

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Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater Antigonick

Mar 27

Sharp edges in Shotgun’s dance-theater <i>Antigonick</i>

It's a museum piece come to life, a poem that dances, a classic that feels ultra-modern. Shotgun Players' Antigonick is all that and more, including somewhat baffling and exhausting.

You don't go into a Mark Jackson show expecting theatrical pablum. Jackson has long been one of the Bay Area's most interesting theater makers – intelligent, audacious, boundary pushing and always, always interesting. He tends to merge varying styles of theater, often very physical, but always in service of storytelling and emotion.

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SF Playhouse’s Stupid Bird f##king soars

Mar 22

SF Playhouse’s <i>Stupid Bird</i> f##king soars

In Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird, an energizing riff on Chekhov's The Seagull, a playwright laments that what he's written is just another play where nothing real happens. You can't really say the same thing about Posner's play.

Bird doesn't change the world, as the fictional playwright at one point says that theater should aim to do, but it does rattle the theatrical cage and clears away some musty clouds that hover over business as usual. It's irreverent, gutsy, funny and even moving – everything you want Chekhov to be but so rarely find in his productions.

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Berkeley Rep’s tart and tangy Tartuffe keeps the faith

Mar 21

Berkeley Rep’s tart and tangy <i>Tartuffe</i> keeps the faith

Faith is one of the most valuable and powerful things human beings have to give away, and anyone who takes advantage of that faith with anything less than sincerity and devotion qualifies as the most heinous of villains. That's why Molière's Tartuffe is so damn funny...and dark...and unsettling.

The oft-banned 1667 satirical comedy has had a long history of production and controversy over the last 350 years, and director Dominique Serrand's new production – a co-production of South Coast Repertory (where it opened), Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. – add an admirable chapter to the play's history.

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Edna, we hardly knew ye

Mar 19

Edna, we hardly knew ye

Tremble those gladdies, possums. Our dear Dame Edna is departing. She's not shaking off this mortal coil (for her that somehow seems tacky), but she is saying a final goodbye. Sort of. Dame Edna's Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour is playing SHN's Orpheum Theatre through Sunday, Feb. 22, and while it feels like comic business as usual for Australia's greatest import since Vegemite, there is something final-feeling about this farewell.

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Sublime stories from Word for Word and Alice Munro

Mar 08

Sublime stories from Word for Word and Alice Munro

Any celebration of Alice Munro merits attention, but when that celebration comes from Word for Word, the ever-astonishing local company that transforms short fiction into brilliant theater with complete fidelity to the original text, attention must not only be paid but also reveled in and savored.

Word for Word brought a Munro story to life in 1999 ("Friend of My Youth"), and the intervening years have brought more acclaim for the Canadian writer and a Nobel Prize for literature. Now that she is rightly revered for her masterful prose, Munro is given a full Word for Word evening in Stories by Alice Munro: "The Office" & "Dolly," a sort of career bookend.

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