Pure pop pleasure with the Puppini Sisters

Apr 17

Pure pop pleasure with the Puppini Sisters

Under ordinary circumstances, the fact of wonderful British actor Hugh Laurie sitting a table away from me would be highly distracting. But Sunday afternoon at the Fairmont's Venetian Room wasn't ordinary circumstances: it was the only scheduled US performance of the British act The Puppini Sisters in support of their new album, The High Life.

The afternoon performance, like the sold-out evening performance, was part of the Bay Area Cabaret season, a season that spans Broadway, pop, jazz and, in a grand Puppini embrace, high camp and sterling musicianship.

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Tense, riveting Brothers from Crowded Fire

Apr 14

Tense, riveting <i>Brothers</i> from Crowded Fire

Not much happens in Jonas Hassen Khemiri's I Call My Brothers, a Crowded Fire Theater production at Thick House. But then again, everything happens.

This is a mostly subterranean drama, which is to say, a little happens on the surface – a young man goes about his day running errands and interacting with friends and family – but a whole lot more is happening in his thoughts, his imagination, his paranoia.

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Sean Hayes is devilish/divine in Act of God

Apr 07

Sean Hayes is devilish/divine in <i>Act of God</i>

Like parochial school for fans of The Daily Show, the play An Act of God is a curious theatrical experience. All the ingredients are there: bells and whistles set, sharply funny script, charming star. But in the end, as in the beginning, it's more lite than enlightening. Maybe it's too much to ask that a snarky comedy about a grumpy god holding forth before an audience of heathen Americans have some spiritual heft to it, but the script comes close several times but ends up wishing it were a ditzy musical.

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A Tour de force for Scheie and Nachtrieb

Apr 06

A <i>Tour</i> de force for Scheie and Nachtrieb

The tour group is just heading out when the enthusiastic guide, suddenly quite sensible, says, "You will need to extrapolate quite a bit if you wish to enjoy this tour."

That is, at once, an incredibly honest thing for a tour guide – any tour guide – to say because it's almost always true and a subtle wink at the theatrical adventure on which we are embarking in Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's beguiling world premiere A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry, a commission from Z Space tailor made for its vast space and built on the prodigious talents of actor Danny Scheie.

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Here’s what for the How and the Why at Aurora

Mar 25

Here’s what for the <i>How and the Why</i> at Aurora

Watching a play like Sarah Treem's The How and the Why makes me feel smarter – fractionally but still. To prove my point, I'm going to quote Ernst Mayr, an evolutionary biologist with whom I was unfamiliar before this play. Mayr, as we're told in the play, was interested in the how and the why of things, the mechanism and the function.

Let's apply that to Treem's play, shall we? The how is pretty clear...

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Theater as contact sport in SF Playhouse’s dazzling Colossal

Mar 24

Theater as contact sport in SF Playhouse’s dazzling <i>Colossal</i>

Colossal at San Francisco Playhouse is a (foot)balls-out theatrical experience that manages to provoke thought and elicit feeling all the while it dazzles with its aggressive stagecraft.

Andrew Hinderaker's play sets up theater as a competitive sport, that is, this play is competing with itself by placing a large scoreboard-type timer above the stage and letting four quarters unfold in real time over an hour. Then there's also the turf-covered playing field (set by Bill English), the bright Friday night-style lights (design by Kurt Landisman) and the ear-piercing whistles (sound design by Theodore J. H. Hulsker). This is more than a stage for a play: it's a playing field ready for intense action.

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Jonesing for cosmic connection in ACT’s Joneses

Mar 17

Jonesing for cosmic connection in ACT’s <i>Joneses</i>

The topic is: things that have happened. That broad, yet somehow quite specific, statement comes from a character in Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses now on stage at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater. Another broad yet specific topic might be: lives that are lived.

Eno is one of those playwrights whose gift seems to be making raising the bizarre, often absurd experience of human existence to the level of cosmic grace and beauty.

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