Robert Avila

Meeting acute

Gore Vidal lands an interview with Timothy McVeigh in Edmund White's Terre Haute
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REVIEW In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, one of the only voices raised on behalf of understanding Timothy McVeigh — that is, as someone slightly more complicated than a Hollywood-style incarnation of pure evil — was that of Gore Vidal. Vidal insisted on pointing to the obvious: the bombing of offices that included the local headquarters of the FBI and the ATF — although utterly cruel and misguided in leading to 168 deaths — was not arbitrary wickedness but a carefully considered act of revenge. Read more »

Still evolving

Boxcar Theatre learns to adapt with Vonnegut
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The human race either sinks or swims. That's evolution as Charles Darwin first saw it. But flippers and a seal pelt, that's pure Kurt Vonnegut. The novelist plays God like no other, wresting the species from its self-destruction, then sending it on its wobbly way with a childlike capacity for invention and a wry if discontented grasp of human folly. That's Galápagos, anyway, his 1985 best-seller in which evolution saves humankind from its big and mischievous brains by sending it back to the sea. Read more »

Home run

"After the War" lucidly strikes home
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HOME RUN: AFTER THE WAR LUCIDLY STRIKES HOME

Philip Kan Gotanda's After the War, enjoying an exceptional world premiere at the American Conservatory Theater, is set during 1948 in a Fillmore boardinghouse run by a laid-back jazz musician and second-generation Japanese American named Chester "Chet" Monkawa (Vancouver's Hiro Kanagawa in an impressive US debut). Read more »

"Good German," bad German

A new play is provocative; a classic's latest guise is not
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The title of David Wiltse's 2003 play, The Good German, points in two directions at once: there's the image of the individual who stands up to the injustice being perpetrated by his or her government, and there's the image of the individual who follows the flag, however reluctantly, wherever it may lead. Of the play's four characters, only one looks even remotely like a saint, and she's killed early on. Read more »

Angel's wing

SF Playhouse's Jesus Hopped the "A" Train is right on time
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Kudos to SF Playhouse for its part in introducing Bay Area audiences to Stephen Adly Guirgis. Guirgis is a member of New York's LAByrinth Theater Company — a collective that includes playwright John Patrick Shanley and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Read more »

"Rust" never sleeps

The Magic's annual Hot House fest yields a discovery
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Between Kirsten Greenidge's rumbling and ambitious Rust and Chantal Bilodeau's titilutf8g if more staid Pleasure and Pain, a metatheme is already emerging from the Magic Theatre's annual three-play Hot House festival. Both Greenidge and Bilodeau merge a contemporary identity-focused story line and a fractured mise-en-scène to explore the porous border between mundane reality and individual and collective fictions.

Rust centers on a troubled patch in the high-flying career of football star Randall Mifflin (Mikaal Sulaiman). Read more »

Ouroboros rising

Big Death and Little Death
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Never mind the ides of March, here comes year four of the Iraq War. Believe it or not, this whole illegal invasion-and-occupation business brought to you by the generally scary US government — that consortium of oil companies, political marionettes, neoconquerors, military wonks, and other capitalist heavies operating behind the flimflam of democracy and terror — is about to celebrate another birthday. Read more »

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 »