Robert Avila

Worth a shot

Mark Jackson's American Suicide brings can-do despair to life
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Sam Small (Jud Williford) is an unemployed man in a fraying bathrobe with a limp Jimmy Dean sausage in his pocket, living off the bacon brought (literally snuck) home by his wife, Mary (Beth Wilmurt), a waitress. Sam's situation, aggravated by his well-thumbed copy of Hamlet, has led him to contemplate suicide.

Albert (Marty Pistone) — right across the hall from Sam and Mary's apartment 86 in number 69 — is sympathetic. Read more »

Happy returns

The Birthday Party is agelessly cruel
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A man hides from the world in a shabby seaside rooming house until two men arrive determined to take him away. The latter represent a kind of conformity, brutal and ruthless in its determination and tactics. Read more »

Pillow talk

Storytelling makes for gripping theater in Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman
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The cold air these last weeks has played foul-weather friend to a couple chilling stage stories about serial child killers — one of them is even called Frozen. Both were recently toasts of Broadway too, though only one includes scary little apple men (not to mention the titular figure of a giant fellow made of soft cushions). Read more »

Control of resources

Danny Hoyle's deft performance carries his solo show, Tings Dey Happen
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Among the usual tidings of war and occupation, the recent holiday season brought news that hundreds of people had been burned alive in a pipeline explosion in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria and its largest city. Read more »

James Broughton's liberation machine

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AVANT DVD "At an early age I arrived in San Francisco," James Broughton says in his 1974 cinematic self-portrait, Testament. "There I spent the rest of my life growing up." A straight-hearted honesty and smiling irony here lie snug side by side, as they do typically throughout the work of the poet and avant-garde filmmaker. Read more »

Funny business

SF Sketchfest is a serious concern to comedy lovers
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The world has rushed headlong and with questionable taste into 2007. Whatever else that implies, it wouldn't be funny if not for SF Sketchfest. The annual comedy showcase, which sails in buoyantly every January, grows fresher by the year, despite being nearly as old as this increasingly passé century.

Admittedly, the Bay Area has several admirable places to go for comedy — evergreen locales like Cobb's, newer nooks like the Dark Room, and a couple yearly improv festivals, for example. Read more »

The territory of The Forest War

And the world around it ...
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Three years ago playwright-director Mark Jackson and the Shotgun Players teamed up to present The Death of Meyerhold, Jackson's devilishly imaginative and ambitious distillation of the revolutionary life, work, and world of Russian theater innovator Vsevolod Meyerhold. Read more »

Deep water, hard rock

Gilbraltar, 12 Days of Cochina
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In a house overlooking the San Francisco Bay, a young painter named Amy (Dena Martinez) hosts a seeming vagabond, Palo (Johnny Moreno), through one long grief-filled night. She's in numb, guilt-stricken mourning for her husband, a purportedly shallow man who, out of his emotional depth, stepped off his sailboat, into the ocean. Palo, for his part, is convinced he knows Amy as Lila, the woman he once loved, abused, and has been searching for up the long coast from Mexico. Read more »

Plays of the year

Suzan-Lori Parks's 365 Days/365 Plays project kicks off in San Francisco
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You may not have noticed, but an unprecedented theatrical experiment was launched nationwide last week. Its San Francisco segment unfolded the night of Nov. Read more »

Goldies Theatre winner Last Planet Theatre

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Offensive. Repugnant. Sick. Few theater directors enjoy hearing these words from patrons, especially as they're bolting up the aisle ahead of the first-act curtain. Then again, for some there's a certain satisfaction in knowing you're still on track.
"The audiences are getting bigger," notes Last Planet Theatre's artistic director, John R. Wilkins. "Sometimes they hate it and walk out. They aren't walking out, out of boredom. They're walking out because it's too much."
That's all right with him, provided what offends is delivered with artistic skill, vision, and honesty. Read more »