TheatreWorks’ 2010-11 season is a wow!

Title of Show_Carol Roseggv2
The original cast of [title of show] included (from left) Heidi Blickenstaff, Hunter Bell (seated), Jeff Bowen (top),
and Susan Blackwell. [title of show] will be presented as part of the 2010-2011 season at TheatreWorks. Photo by Carol Rosegg

If the new TheatreWorks season only contained[title of show], I would be thrilled. I wanted desperately for this “little musical that could” to have it’s pre-Broadway run in San Francisco, but creators Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen opted not to go out of town and head directly from off Broadway to on. The show didn’t exactly re-write Broadway history, but the original cast recording preserved a plucky show that, to some of us, is legendary in its wit and ambition.

But now this musical for people who love (and loathe and love to loathe) musicals is going to conclude the newly announced TheatreWorks season in June of 2011.

[title of show] isn’t the only treat in the season. After its run on Broadway this season, the Bay Area will get to sink its teeth into Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, his well-received follow-up to the gazillion-award-winning August: Osage County. The play runs Oct. 6 to 31. And another Broadway hit (one that recently stopped in San Francisco on its national tour) takes steps to Mountain View. The 39 Steps, a lovingly comic spoof of the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name, opens in January of 2011.

TracyLettsYou can usually count on a TheatreWorks season to include a big, juicy musical, and the coming season is no exception. Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ A Light in the Piazza, a stunning, sophisticated work of modern musical theater (with a score by Richard Rodgers’ eminently talented grandson, no less), opens Aug. 25.

The season also includes three world premieres, including season-opener Auctioning the Ainsleys by Laura Schellhardt about a family of auctioneers. Schellhardt’s The K of D was seen at the Magic Theatre.

The second world premiere is a holiday offering: a new musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s story A Christmas Memory with lyrics by Carol Hall (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), music by Larry Grossman and a book by Duane Poole. The show runs through most of the month of December.

The third world premiere is Rajiv Joseph’s psychological thriller The North Pool. Joseph is probably best known for his play Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo. His Animals Out of Paper is currently at SF Playhouse.

And finally, David Gutterson’s acclaimed novel Snow Falling on Cedars gets a theatrical adaptation (and a Bay Area premiere) in March 2011. Kevin McKeon of Book-It Repertory Theatre adapted and directed David Guterson’s masterful novel for the stage in Seattle three years ago.

For information about the TheatreWorks season call 650 463-1960 or visit Subscriptions range from $149 to $441.

Photo at right: Tracy Letts, author of Superior Donuts. Photo courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Co.

Review: `The K of D’

Maya Lawson plays the inhabitants of a small Ohio town in the ghost story The K of D, the one-woman show that opens the new Magic Theatre season. Photos by


Magic season opens with chilling solo show `K of D’


In the world of new plays, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to come up with that prince of a hit.

That’s something folks at the Magic Theatre, one of the country’s foremost purveyors of new plays, have known for a long time, and it’s something Magic audiences know, too. When you go see a new play, you are taking a risk, diving into the unknown with an expectation of at least being entertained and a hope of being altered, shaken or moved.

With new artistic director Loretta Greco taking over for Chris Smith, the Magic heads into a new season with a very human opening play.

Laura Schellhardt’s The K of D is a one-woman exercise in storytelling in which the dynamic actress Maya Lawson, a San Francisco native, plays the inhabitants of a small Ohio town during what comes to be known as the year of “the death.”

“I got a little story for you.” Those are the inviting opening word as Lawson, dressed in a tank top and jeans and carrying a satchel and a skateboard, invites us to set our brains on listening mode – something akin to sitting around the campfire and sharing ghost stories.

She tells us this is a story from her childhood, though we’re not exactly sure who exactly she is in this story. Offstage calls indicate she’s actually one of the characters she’s pretending to play, but we’re never quite sure (and that’s actually needlessly confusing by the end of the show).

The western Ohio town we’re in is near the Indiana border — “Think Dairy Queen,” our narrator tells us – and our job is to follow a pack of teenage friends from one tragedy to another and see how the events of one year ended up being a sort of urban legend about a girl with the “k of d” or “kiss of death.”

The play’s foray into the murk of urban legends is actually when it’s most interesting. We hear the teenagers tell a couple legends – one about a phone call from a crypt, another about a disgusting event at a diner – and then we’re given to understand that urban myths tell us a lot about ourselves and our fears. “It’s safer to be wary but more fun to believe.”

Keeping the teenage characters straight is challenging at first, but the appealing, energetic Lawson, under the direction of Rebecca Novick, sharpens her characterizations as she goes and the story begins to pick up speed.

On a set (by Melpomene Katakalos) of wooden planks, a metal milk crate and a steel drum), Lawson spins a yarn of twins Charlotte and Jamie McGraw and what happened when one of them was killed in a car accident by the horrible Johnny Whistler.

Schellhardt gives a whole lot away in her title, so the ending isn’t all that surprising, nor has she crafted an especially satisfying urban legend, but the telling is rich, especially when Sara Huddleston’s sound design is hooting and chirping and whooshing with sound effects that blend nature and possible otherworldly activity.
The K of D is actually more gripping as a ghost story than as an urban legend – there’s something thrillingly creepy about one voice in the dim light (lighting design by Kate Boyd) telling us about things that go bump in the theatrical night.


The K of D continues through Oct. 19 at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $40-$45. Call 415-441-8822 or visit