Robert Avila

Revisiting the ReOrient

Golden Thread's festival of plays exploring the Middle East turns 10
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THEATER It's the fall of 2001. The Americans have arrived. The Taliban is, for the moment, displaced. A young Afghani woman named Alya (Sara Razavi) stands in a burka, holding a suitcase. She's met by her older sister, Meena (Nora el Samahy), returned from England to fetch her. Meena wears a headscarf but leaves her face proudly, fearlessly uncovered. She speaks of the freedoms ahead of them, the chance to study, even to talk to men. Alya is scandalized and fascinated.

The two sisters go on to engage in petty quarrels, teasing. Read more »

Something absurd you may have heard

Cutting Ball's Bald Soprano and Spare Stage's A Body of Water
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THEATER The Bald Soprano and A Body of Water, two very different plays, share a strange symmetry. Both feature a married couple with no recollection whatsoever of their longstanding daily relationship who gingerly grope toward mutual recognition.

Cutting Ball Theater's slick production of Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano clocks in at a breezy and laugh-filled 70 minutes. Artistic director Rob Melrose's staging is exactingly precise yet nimble enough to seem almost carefree. Read more »

Beth Wilmurt

GOLDIES 2009: An unexpected approach to acting which animates devastatingly unassuming characters
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Beth Wilmurt's whole approach to acting is a little unexpected, not unlike the devastatingly unassuming characters she can manifest — most recently, an excellent ensemble turn this year in Marcus Gardley's This World in a Woman's Hands at Shotgun Players. Over beers and enchiladas in the Mission District, she even confesses to a certain ambivalence. Read more »

Teeny 'Tiny'

Berkeley Rep's "Tiny Kushner" shows the towering playwright in lest than statuesque form
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THEATER A reunion between Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone and playwright Tony Kushner is a notable event. This is a relationship that goes back to the original production of Angels in America, after all. Currently up: Tiny Kushner. Read more »

Night of the living theater

Sleepwalkers' Zombie Town has brains (and eats them, too!)
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THEATER A small Texas 'burb has just suffered attack by a horde of reanimated corpses, which can happen to anyone. Read more »

No pain, no gain

Thrillpeddlers' Torture Garden and Phantom Limb give the Halloween itch a satisfying scratch
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THEATER Thrillpeddlers, the Bay Area's Grand Guignol maestros, is having a very good year. Read more »

Musical melange

Brief Encounter and South Pacific hit low and high notes
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STAGE Kneehigh Theatre's Noël Coward–inspired cinema-theater hybrid, Brief Encounter, the British import currently up at American Conservatory Theater, is a shrewd melding of winning formulas borrowed from more adventurous recent theatrical works as well as old-time British music hall entertainments. Read more »

Too clever by half

American Idiot's Broadway launch at Berkeley Rep
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">THEATER REVIEW With a notable streak of successful New York–bound liftoffs and landings — for everything from solo shows (Bridge & Tunnel) to unconventional musicals (Passing Strange) — it's fair to call Berkeley Rep the regional NASA to Broadway's firmament. It therefore seemed more savvy than surprising that the Rep took on staging Green Day's humongous hit concept album, American Idiot, as a musical. Read more »

Fringe follies

Sizing up SF's eclectic theater festival
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The San Francisco Fringe Festival is, like, 18 or something this year. That used to mean you were middle-aged in, like, the Middle Ages. But this is 2000-and-something. The multi-venue Exit Theatre–centered Fringe, lottery-based democratic mayhem at its most unsound and intriguing, appears as youthful as ever. Read more »

Border bender

Thick Description's revival of Octavio Solis's El Otro is a trip
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Heading south across the Rio Grande, their pants and shoes raised high over their heads, a 13-year-old Mexican American girl named Romy (Maria Candelaria) and her two sort-of fathers — inveterate bad boy Lupe (Sean San José) and straight-laced new stepdad Ben (Johnny Moreno) — wade into the past as their only way forward. Read more »