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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The general awesomeness of Emily Skinner

Mar 06

The general awesomeness of Emily Skinner

In the last couple of years, San Francisco went from no Emily Skinner to new and improved now with 200 percent more Emily Skinner. The Tony-nominated actor (Side Show) was suddenly making regular appearances on our stages. In October of 2014, Skinner revealed her star power in 42nd Street Moon's Do I Hear a Waltz? (read about it here), in May of last year, she was a highlight of American Conservatory Theater's A Little Night Music (read about it here). The question is how did we get so lucky?

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Word for Word enlivens stories by Donoghue, Tóibín

Feb 28

Word for Word enlivens stories by Donoghue, Tóibín

There is nothing more comforting than a Word for Word production. This extraordinary company's rich stage adaptations of short fiction for the stage can be thrilling, inventive, moving, incisive, funny and thought provoking. And, in that way that great writing can take you into that zone of alternate experience, they can be comforting. Maybe that's akin to the joy of being read to – there is that element in play, but augmented with the beauty of sets, lights, costumes, music and the combined thrill of both reading and live theater.

The new Word for Word show, Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóbín now at Z Below, comprises two gentle, emotionally rich stories by Irish writers...

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Berkeley Rep’s Macbeth: Double, double dull, in trouble

Feb 27

Berkeley Rep’s <i>Macbeth</i>: Double, double dull, in trouble

Say this for Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Macbeth now on stage at the Roda Theatre: it stars an Oscar winner, a Tony Winner and an Emmy winner. And she's doing some interesting things with Lady Macbeth. People are coming to this production to see Frances McDormand try her hand at one of the juiciest roles in the Shakespearean canon, and it's impossible for McDormand's genius not to shine through despite the uninvolving production that surrounds her.

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