Bouncy Island breezes blow at TheatreWorks

Mar 12

Bouncy <i>Island</i> breezes blow at TheatreWorks

Last Saturday I reviewed the TheatreWorks production of Once on This Island, the charming musical fairy tale by the Ragtime/Rocky team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. My review ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, and you can read it here.

Director Robert Kelley's production captures much of the show's charm and energy, and the cast is delightful. But I've been thinking about...

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Starry, starry night: Gunderson lights up Sky at TheatreWorks

Jan 19

Starry, starry night: Gunderson lights up <i>Sky</i> at TheatreWorks

Mind-expanding science and heart-expanding characters are the stock in trade of San Francisco playwright Lauren Gunderson, whose not-so-stealthy takeover of the Bay Area theater scene couldn't be more welcome. Her staggering smarts are matched by her delectable sense of humor, so any new work with her name attached to it is reason for celebration.

Gunderson's latest Bay Area production comes from TheatreWorks: Silent Sky, a bright, poignant drama...

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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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TheatreWorks’ shining Desert Cities

Aug 30

TheatreWorks’ shining <i>Desert Cities</i>

I sort of fell in love with Jon Robin Baitz more than 20 years when I saw his The Substance of Fire at the Magic Theatre. He was an astoundingly intelligent playwright crafting dramas that felt of another time and from a writer well beyond his years.

Baitz has continued to turn out compelling dramas over the decades, but it was his stint in Hollywood that seemed to really recharge his theatrical battery. After a not-so-great experience in the world of network television, Baitz wrote what might be his best play yet, Other Desert Cities, which receives its local premiere from TheatreWorks.

I reviewed the play for the Palo Alto Weekly, an excerpt of which follows.

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A wildly Happy homecoming at TheatreWorks

Jun 09

A wildly <i>Happy</i> homecoming at TheatreWorks

In his wildly cynical, angry, sad and, ultimately, happy new play Wild With Happy, playwright/actor (and former San Franciscan) Colman Domingo is doing several admirable things. In telling the story of a 40-year-old man who has just lost his mother, he is telling a modern fairy tale in which the mother – so often long dead and gone in such tales – is the driving force. And he's pushing hard against the enormous cultural boulder that goes by various names – cynicism, snark, realism – but is really just the absence of hope.

In its West Coast premiere from TheatreWorks, Wild With Happy is a light farce until it isn't.

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TheatreWorks’ musical Earnest fun but unnecessary

Apr 07

TheatreWorks’ musical <i>Earnest</i> fun but unnecessary

In addition to some terrific songs and a perennial reason to scream at Dover to "move yer bloomin' ass," My Fair Lady has left an interesting legacy in the form a highly raised bar to which all classic plays turned into musicals must aspire. Most composers have all but given up trying to transform an already great play into an even better musical and instead turn to movies as grist for the musical mill.

But Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska are still aiming toward the Shavian/Lerner and Loeweian heights. Quite courageously, they have turned Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest into a musical. Being Earnest, their transformed work, is having its world premiere courtesy of TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

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