SF Mime Troupe rocks the boat in Ripple Effect

Jul 07

SF Mime Troupe rocks the boat in <i>Ripple Effect</i>

I must admit that for a while there, I ceased looking forward to the July Fourth debut of the latest San Francisco Mime Troupe show at Dolores Park. The productions were feeling slack or worse, forced. The writing was off and the politics came off as strident or silly rather than relevant or even entertaining.Happy to report that this year's show, Ripple Effect, is a major improvement.

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Transcendence (and show tunes!) under Sonoma stars

Jul 06

Transcendence (and show tunes!) under Sonoma stars

Jack London's words take on special meaning when uttered at the start of One Singular Sensation, the first of this summer's three Broadway Under the Stars shows from Transcendence Theatre Company in residence for a third summer at Jack London State Park.

The setting for the shows couldn't be more beautiful. The audience is seated in the ruins of a winery, and behind the stage, just beyond the crumbling stone wall, are rolling Sonoma hills, trees toward the top and grapevines climbing in orderly rows along the sides.

Fans of Broadway musicals and show music take note: you do not want to miss the work of Transcendence Theatre Company.

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SF Playhouse goes into Sondheim’s Woods

Jul 03

SF Playhouse goes into Sondheim’s <i>Woods</i>

Later this year we're going to get a star-studded, Disney-ized version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods, a 1986 musical mishmash of fairy tales, grim realities and realistic ever-afters. It will be fun seeing the likes of Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp singing Sondheim tunes and bringing these tales to life.

But until then, we have real, live people doing this oft-produced show on stage at San Francisco Playhouse and making a strong case for the genius of Sondheim (especially, in this show, his lyrics).

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Double good, double fun in Cal Shakes’ Comedy

Jun 29

Double good, double fun in Cal Shakes’ <i>Comedy</i>

A visiting stranger makes a keen observation: "Your town is troubled with unruly boys." The trouble is, he ends up being one of the unruly boys, and that's the fun of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, a masterfully chaotic comedy now at California Shakespeare Theater's Bruns Amphitheater.

As farces go, this Comedy requires us to believe that two sets of not-so-bright twins with the same names – the upper-class set is called Antipholus, the slave set is called Dromio – cause confusion, consternation and furious frustration when roaming the streets of Ephesus of the same day. Once over that hump (and Shakespeare makes it pretty easy), the farce clicks along like a finely tuned laugh machine until brothers are reunited, a father's search is fulfilled and a courtesan gets her diamond ring back.

Director Aaron Posner strikes the right tone from the start...

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Mamet with heart (and humor) at Aurora

Jun 21

Mamet with heart (and humor) at Aurora

Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company concludes its season with David Mamet's American Buffalo, an early (1975) Mamet play that has all the telltale Mamet qualities (staccato dialogue sprayed in four-letter directions, life among conmen and criminals, pointed criticism of the "great American way," etc.), but unlike some of the later, more intentionally provocative and disturbing work, this one has a core of compassion and human connection.

Part of that is Mamet's play and part of it is director Barbara Damashek's production headed by two Bay Area greats: James Carpenter and Paul Vincent O'Connor. Watching them spar is theatrical bliss.

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Depth, beauty surge through glorious Once

Jun 19

Depth, beauty surge through glorious <i>Once</i>

If every movie-to-musical transformation were as soulful and creative as Once the state of the Broadway musical would be in a much better place.

There would seem to be no less likely candidate for the Broadway treatment than the sweet and modest 2007 Irish indie film Once about a frustrated singer/songwriter in Dublin and the Czech immigrant who changes his life. It's a love story and not a love story, a musical and not a musical. Above all else, it's intimate and delicate, like a slice of life infused with passionate music transferred with great love to the big screen.

Fans of the movie (which nabbed a best song Oscar for songwriters/stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's "Falling Slowly") let out a collective groan when it was announced that Once would be turned into a Broadway musical.

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ACT’s epic Orphan dusts off ancient tale

Jun 12

ACT’s epic <i>Orphan</i> dusts off ancient tale

American Conservatory Theater concludes its season with The Orphan of Zhao an epic tale of revenge that some scholars think stretches back to the fourth century BCE. It's a tale as old as time, and the first act of this 2 1/2-hour show feels like a millennia itself. But once the revenge gears really start grinding, there's an interesting story here. I reviewed the production for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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