Robert Avila

"Old Times" and "The Homecoming"

Two Harold Pinter domestic dramas, if so prosaic a term can apply to the psychological warfare underway in them
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PREVIEW Don't get too cozy at home this weekend. Two Harold Pinter domestic dramas (if so prosaic a term can apply to the psychological warfare underway in them) are opening, and each ranks among his most stingingly taut, darkly hilarious, and downright creepy works. So take a pause for Pinter, the late and great, and unsettle the nest a bit — beginning with TheatreFIRST's offering of Old Times, an eerie 1971 three-hander (featuring a rare opportunity to see the excellent L. Peter Callender on something other than the largest of local stages). Read more »

Model A

Traveling Jewish Theatre's not-to-be-missed The Model Apartment
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The stuff of dreams, this model apartment. And a repository for them too. Dreams, though, run in two directions, heavenward being only one. For an elderly Jewish couple from Brooklyn beginning a new chapter of their lives in mid-1980s Florida, nothing in this apartment is as it seems. Neither are they what they may first seem to us. Read more »

Climate change

How does a small, intrepid theater company survive — and thrive — in turbulent economic times? Look to SoMa's Climate Theater
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I've heard about a fortuneteller with a tarot deck and a dead fish. I can smell the fish, but I'm daunted by the line in front of the curtain, so I wander into another room and stand before a terrycloth sculpture of some tropical beach getaway. Read more »

Loving the enemy

A Girl's War and Waitin' 2 End Hell cast relationships in, and as, war zones
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REVIEW Nation, ethnicity, family, friends, gender, lover — where do our true loyalties lie? More to the point, when our multiple loyalties slip out of concentric orbit and collide, how much say do we really have in the matter? Read more »

A cold one

Little heat, plenty of miscasting mar NCTC's Tennessee in the Summer
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Tennessee Williams was notoriously afraid of going insane — the fate of his sister Rose, a presence haunting several of his greatest plays — and in the latter half of his career, the great American dramatist wrestled mightily with a slump in his fortunes, depression, and addictions to pills and alcohol. Read more »

It's a living?

Mixed emotions, no news in the respectful Betrayed
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REVIEW Amid worsening violence between their respective Sunni and Shia communities, even old friends Adnan (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari) and Laith (Amir Sharafeh) are prone to argue along sectarian lines. But these squabbles are more than offset by a dire mutual predicament: as Iraqi translators working for the U.S. occupation in Baghdad, Adnan and Laith live as persons "in between," precariously balanced between glib and suspicion-prone American employer and outraged fellow citizen alike. Read more »

Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes

A time-tripping escapade across three centuries of culture and cruelty
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PREVIEW What lengths will you go to for your art? If you're a castrato it's probably a sore point. For Mexico's internationally renowned experimental theater company, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes (Certain Inhabitants Theatre), it's the beginning of a lush and lively investigation into the complexities and contradictions of cultural power and refinement. Read more »

Night at the museum

A return visit to Rich and Famous
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REVIEW American Conservatory Theater leads off its new season with a revival of John Guare's rollickingly self-referential 1974 comedy, a madcap musical so quirky and of the moment in conception and mood that it comes shrouded in a sometimes dazzling, more often distancing veil of nostalgia.

New York playwright Bing Ringling (Brooks Ashmanskas) has received his first commercial production — after only several hundred attempts — in a dreary downtown theater haunted by an insane producer (Mary Birdsong) with a failure wish and a strong resemblance to a tottering Kate Hepbu Read more »

"Trench" mouth

The blog that ate San Francisco! Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's new play takes on the neighbors. Plus: The best of Sketchfest
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REVIEW So I used to live, for a couple of years, around the corner from the Atlas Café in the Mission District. You may know the place. It's nice. I probably went there more than I should have. I certainly don't want to think how much money I sank there. The beetloaf sandwich is excellent. The point is, one day I saw Peter Sinn Nachtrieb there. He's the local playwright with the budding national reputation ever since his very sharp and funny Hunter Gatherers took off a couple of years ago. Very nice guy, too. Read more »

Return to deform

Banana Bag and Bodice take Beowulf on an epic journey
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PREVIEW One of the most exciting and unusual theatrical events of 2008 came from a small San Francisco–spawned, now Brooklyn-based company: the curiously named Banana Bag and Bodice. It almost sounds unexpected, but in fact BBB, which retains close ties to the Bay Area, has been doing shrewd, highly imaginative, often startlingly designed songplays — their preferred term — with practically no budget for about a decade. Read more »