Robert Avila

"Chop Shop"

Everyday drama on the harried, often undocumented margins of immigrant life
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REVIEW Ramin Bahrani's first feature, Man Push Cart (2005) — about a struggling Pakistani service worker selling coffee and bagels from a midtown Manhattan pushcart — signaled the arrival of a genuine talent for atmospheric and absorbing realist drama, and an unpreachy champion of America's disregarded immigrant working-class. Read more »

Blood in, blood out

Can incest and vengeance right an upside-down world?
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In John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, when Parma's bright and talented Giovanni (Michael Hayden) confesses to Friar Bonaventura (Steven Anthony Jones) his passion for his equally exceptional sister, Annabella (René Augesen), the friar is quick to understand the stakes, declaring, "We have need to pray." He advises Giovanni to turn from so unnatural a desire to repentance and sorrow. Read more »

Facing the music

Trap Door explores moral agency in the Iraq occupation
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Mini video-enhanced chamber operas seem to be the flavor of the month, at least in a certain stretch of the Mission District. Only three weeks ago, Bay Area composer Erling Wold's solo opera Mordake began its world premiere run at Shotwell Studios (as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival) with inimitable tenor John Duykers in the part of the titular medical mystery and suicide — a pampered Victorian gentleman with the seemingly sentient face of his sisterly "evil twin" pasted to the back of his head. Read more »

Mixed doubles

Yves Jacques talks Robert Lepage and The Andersen Project
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A new work by Robert Lepage is always a major event. In theater, the Quebecois director, actor, and filmmaker stands with the likes of Robert Wilson or Peter Sellars at the pinnacle of theatrical invention and global acclaim. Little wonder that, like Wilson and Sellars, Lepage has found opera a logical outlet for his extraordinary capacities and grand, all-encompassing visions. Read more »

Sweet "Dreams"

Best of Broadway stages Shakespeare by way of South Asia
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Words, words, words. You've probably noticed how Shakespeare's plays are full of them. They skip or loll on the tongue; they tickle or bemuse the ear. Sometimes, and not just for the uninitiated or casually acquainted, they come across with more music than meaning. Read more »

Fig-headed

Theatre de la Jeune Lune's audacious Figaro shakes up a classic
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It's 1792 and the Terror reigns in Paris, the euphoric overthrow of the old regime in the name of universal brotherhood having given way to a fiesta of bloodletting and fear. Hiding out from the revolutionary mob, just a stone's throw from the Bastille, a weathered aristocrat, Count Almaviva (Dominique Serrand), and his reluctantly loyal and much put-upon servant Fig (Steven Epp) carp and cavil and niggle at each other, poking old wounds and replaying the past. Read more »

Loss leader

The Monkey Room's monkey business is familiar, inkBoat struck a c(H)ord
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The head of a team of HIV researchers (Lauren Grace) tries to safeguard what may be a breakthrough — a concoction they have been testing on monkeys seems, albeit mysteriously, to inhibit transmission of the virus in The Monkey Room. Meanwhile, a fallen fellow researcher turned funding hatchet man (a slickly imposing Robert Parsons) acts as proverbial wolf at the door. Read more »

Destination unknown

Ethical traveler Jeff Greenwald has a trip for you: Strange Travel Suggestions
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Jeff Greenwald has done his show Strange Travel Suggestions dozens if not hundreds of times and still has no idea where it's going. No wonder he and his audience keep coming back for more. The unknown, an aphrodisiac to the traveler, also makes great catnip for the storyteller.

Still, there are consistent elements. Read more »

Tumbleweed noir

In his first play, Dennis Lehane mines dark mysteries in flyover country
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In a humble Southwestern bar tended by a chatty waitress (Lorraine Olsen), three pairs of customers on the edge of nowhere discuss the past and future with a certain growing desperation. Coronado, though the title of the play, isn't exactly the setting. It's one of the up-and-coming towns in the area, referred to in passing as not a bad place to be — something to aspire to, maybe. Read more »

Edging toward the edge

Tragedy: a tragedy makes light of darkness
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A title like Tragedy: a tragedy has, you might think, promises to keep. But what exactly are they? The repetition already flags, and flogs the futility in the gesture, announcing amusingly this post-tragic age. Instead, a sardonic scene suggests itself, nothing summing up the post-tragic like the daily litany of tragic stories on the news. Read more »