Robert Avila

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 »

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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arts@sfbg.com

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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arts@sfbg.com

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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arts@sfbg.com

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 »