Stage

The Performant: One for the road

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Baxtalo Drom's happy trails -- and the Performant's faves of 2012

With 2012 finally behind us, apocalypse thwarted, we have to get back to the business of preparing for a future we were told not to expect. Stretched out before us, a ribbon of Alfred Noyes moonlight looping the landscape of possibility, the road of the future beckons us onward, final destination unknown. What lies ahead, nobody knows for sure. But at least we know that for the moment there *is* an ahead.

During both the best and worst of times, the heady mystique of the open road is always in fashion, imbued with an undeniable glamour that monthly “gypsy punk cabaret” Baxtalo Drom is all too happy to exploit. Baxtalo Drom translates to “Lucky Road” -- happy trails, if you like -- and it plays out very much like a quick-and-dirty variety show performed by a high-spirited caravan-load of traveling players. A showcase for pretty girls, hobo bands, and eclectic DJ’s, Baxtalo Drom’s shabby chic and Balkan streak make it a perfect fit for Amnesia’s convivial ramshackle allure, its dark corners and hardwood floors.

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The Performant: How Grinches save Christmas

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Jeff Garrett and Will Franken overcome holiday saccharine.

Is that a collective sigh of relief in the air as another frenzied holiday season winds down to its usual end and whatever apocalypse was scheduled to go down seems to have spared at least our physical reality?

As we drift back into the routines of our regularly scheduled lives, the brief illumination of whatever lessons we were meant to be learning on the eve of our potential destruction and the supposed birthday of our salvation, flickers out without so much as a whimper. It’s a bit of a stretch anyhow, to weight a single stretch of calendar with so much cosmic significance, yet we do it year after year, grasping superstitiously at the shimmering notion of redemption, the hidden catalyst underlying our frantic excess.

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Stage might

Upstage/Downstage Awards: theater's best and worst of 2012

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arts@sfbg.com

YEAR IN THEATER In addition to Christmas lights, the seasonal landscape would not be the same without a thick, shiny coating of awards. We reflect on some highs (and a few lows) from the year in theater with a nod of appreciation here, a nod of respect there, or just a nod, short and involuntary, before the house lights jolt us awake again.Read more »

The Performant: Poetry in motion

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"You Need to Read Poetry" and "Ragged Wing" take flight

Against the back curtain of the stage, empty save a couple of small platforms, a mysterious tree, represented by a rainbow of colored scarves, stretched its silken boughs. Cut to the “great before,” when humans were still a figment of the future, and Mol’-luk (Liz Wand), a brooding, powerful condor, sat perched on a rock, little suspecting that the “mountain” is pregnant with his peregrine falcon son, Wek Wek (Juliana Lustenader), whose dramatic birth by fire was further facilitated by a chorus of rattlesnakes (select members of the oddience armed with noisemakers).

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Misery over mistletoe

Shotgun Players mount Tom Waits' 'Woyzeck' for the holidays

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The Performant: Talk Lobster

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Killing My Lobster sends up San Francisco

“Funny can mean different things to different people.” Perhaps no tagline better describes the fluctuations of sketch comedy than that of veteran gagsters Killing My Lobster. And they should know, since they’ve been dishing up their irreverent brand of short-attention span comedy since 1997. Even if, as a performance format, sketch comedy isn’t really your thing, the variables built into its basic equation -- rotating writers and cast members, wacky themes, and the unique juxtaposition of the ludicrous with the everyday -- ensure that, like the weather, if you don’t like something, just wait 10 minutes, and you will probably be rewarded with something you do.

The blink-and-you-missed-it one-night run on Saturday of “Killing My Lobster Takes it to the Streets,” at Stagewerx naturally included the weather in their microhood-specific roundup of familiar, Bay Area moments.

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London diary

Cruising to the end of story, and Forced Entertainment's 'The Coming Storm'
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Tom Cruise, clad in military drag, descended last week by RAF helicopter into Trafalgar Square in what is best described as forced entertainment but was in fact a time-wasting scene from his upcoming blockbuster All You Need Is Kill. Not quite simultaneously but with considerably more stealth, I advanced into South London's Battersea area, in a completely uncoordinated foray, to see the latest from famed Sheffield-based pomo theater artists Forced Entertainment.Read more »

The Performant: Strindberg sans helium

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A singular marathon

Preparing for a marathon of theatre is similar to preparing for any other kind. Of paramount importance: lots of rest, good hydration, comfortable layers.

This year’s test of my theatre-going tenacity, clocking in at 11.5 hours, came courtesy of the ever-ambitious Cutting Ball Theater, who, with translator Paul Walsh, have been preparing for this event for years: the production of a five-play cycle of August Strindberg’s “chamber plays,” written in the last years of his life. After a year-long series of staged readings, and creation of an archival website, the Strindberg cycle debuted in repertory on October 12, including four all-day marathons of the entire cycle of which I attended the first (the last will play this Sunday, November 18). 

Here's the play-by-play:

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GOLDIES 2012: PianoFight

A multi-faceted, multi-armed organization of sketch comedy, original drama, new play festivals, and comedy-horror-ballet about ducks

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GOLDIES A PianoFight show can be almost as striking for its audience as for what the company puts onstage, even if few audiences will upstage a machine that blows ducks out of people's butts, per Duck Lake. PianoFight crowds are conspicuously not your typical theatergoers — they're closer to the boisterous women in office attire I noticed at the now-defunct Off-Market Theater, PianoFight's old haunt, who had smuggled in a bottle of Chardonnay and were picnicking in a back row like it was Baker Beach. Read more »

GOLDIES 2012: Joe Landini and the Garage

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GOLDIES Choreographer, impresario, and arts advocate Joe Landini likes to say yes. "It's my philosophy to start that way," the founder and artistic director of the Garage — San Francisco's most hoppin' performance venue — explains. "If you say no to something, the conversation is closed. There is nowhere to go."Read more »