Robert Avila

Fo sho

Eastenders' "Fo/Faux!" revisits, and riffs on, Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!

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THEATER Leave it to a small and scrappy low-to-no-budget theater company to revive, at just the right time, Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! Fo, Italy's esteemed latter-day commedia dell'arte rabble-rouser — the first clown (who really is a clown) to win a Nobel Prize — crafted this gem in inspired response to another period of social-economic bullshit, the tumultuous mid-1970s, when Italy was suffering the brunt of the "stagflation" resulting from an oil-triggered worldwide downturn. Read more »

Reality bites

Dan Hoyle reports back from the heartland in his latest stage show The Real Americans

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Feb. 5 saw a varied but collectively incensed body of American conservatives unfurl itself all red-white-and-blue in Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the first Tea Party Nation convention. The delegates, dubbed "teabaggers" by media wags and hailing from all parts of the land, responded enthusiastically to a keynote speech bewailing the "Islamification" of a nation overrun by foreigners and subverted from within by the Obama administration, the green movement, and the "cult of multiculturalism."Read more »

Tragically hip

Two stage must-sees: Magic Theater's riveting Oedipus el Rey and Fauxnique's glorious Luxury Items

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The Oedipus of Sophocles gets transposed to the California prison system and East L.A. in Luis Alfaro's lively Oedipus el Rey, playing at the Magic Theatre in a world premiere slickly staged by artistic director Loretta Greco. Neither the classic nor contemporary terrain is new turf for Alfaro, whose Electricidad similarly reset the Electra myth. But San Francisco is another story, this being the acclaimed L.A.-based Latino playwright's first professional Bay Area production.Read more »

Schooling the teacher

Aurora Theatre's The First Grade tackles life lessons

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THEATER From the mouths of babes come some pretty hefty words in Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson's initially darkish, ultimately feel-goody new comedy: congenial, altruistic, pertinacious, solipsism. But it's the way they sound in the mouth of his protagonist, 57-year-old first-grade teacher Sydney (a thoroughly disarming Julia Brothers), that gets our attention. They're new to her too for the most part, at least in daily use. Read more »

Curtain calls

The year that almost ate China, or after the deluge

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THEATER Up to around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, Thrillpeddlers were having a very good year. One of 2009's Goldie recipients, the city's connoisseurs of Grand Guignol–style fresh flesh were riding a remarkable wave of success with their inspired revival of Pearls over Shanghai, by San Francisco's storied Cockettes, when an altogether different current overtook them.Read more »

Cheers!

She Stoops to Comedy raises the bar for holiday theater
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER It's hardly news, but holiday shows can be fairly dreary treats. Given such periods of seasonal affective disorder as the theater may present, it's a genuine surprise and pleasure to discover the wit and wile strutting the boards at SF Playhouse — tucked into a far corner of Union Square somewhere just north-by-northwest of that big Christmas tree — where the season offering is a sparkling production of David Greenspan's She Stoops to Comedy.

Mercifully, the plot has nothing to do with yuletide or smiling through a bad case of rickets. Read more »

Big bang

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's hot sex farce comes with cold fish, and an apocalypse
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THEATER "Stop the world, I want to get off" — a hoary phrase of pop weltschmerz that only now strikes me as a choice bit of narcissistic prurience, thanks to Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. Read more »

Revisiting the ReOrient

Golden Thread's festival of plays exploring the Middle East turns 10
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arts@sfbg.com

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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arts@sfbg.com

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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arts@sfbg.com

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 »