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.

Read More

Lots to unpack in Crowded Fire’s Shipment

Sep 27

Lots to unpack in Crowded Fire’s <i>Shipment</i>

While Secretary Clinton and The Orange Bloviator were duking it out at the first presidential debate and helping the populace decide the fate of this troubled nation, Crowded Fire Theater was painting its own portrait of America at the opening of Young Jean Lee's The Shipment at the Thick House.

It was an incendiary evening for several reasons, not the least of which was the actual heat wave baking San Francisco.

Read More

Young Jean Lee’s fire-breathing Dragons

Mar 27

Young Jean Lee’s fire-breathing <i>Dragons</i>

Race shmace. Let's do plays about explosions – exploding race, exploding narrative, exploding audience brains.

That's sort of what Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven is like. This co-production of Asian American Theater Company and Crowded Fire Theater Company is filled with intelligence, talent and 70 minutes of utterly compelling theater. But the whole effect is somewhat like being too near an explosion. Afterward, you ears ring, your head pounds and your equilibrium's a little off.

But that's a good thing, right?

Playwright Lee, who dropped out of UC Berkeley's English PhD program after six years, said something really interesting in an interview with American Theatre magazine last fall. "It's a destructive impulse – I want to destroy the show: make it so bad that it just eats itself, eating away at its own clichés until it becomes complicated and fraught enough to resemble truth."

By the end of Dragons, I couldn't tell you exactly what it was about or even what it was I had just seen. But I would say it was original, outrageous and absolutely honest in its intention to entertain and eviscerate.

Read More