Theater

The Performant: More than words

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Sheetal Gandhi and Ragged Wing Ensemble stretch their forms

If an image is worth a thousand words, how much dialogue does the art of dance encompass, when every flick of the wrist can denote whole unspoken volumes? As dance in the Bay Area moves ever further into hybrid territories, where language and limbs combine to stretch the parameters of storytelling, patrons of more traditional theatrical fare may find familiarity in the broadened scope of this increasingly amalgamated artform.

Sheetal Gandhi’s "Bahu-Beti-Biwi" at ODC is a great example of this heterogeneity, bringing to life a series of characters who speak as much in gesture as with words on an almost ascetically bare stage.

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River phoenix

Campo Santo resurrects its own in Richard Montoya's 'The River'

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The comeback klown: John Leguizamo's 'Ghetto Klown' returns

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It's been three years since hyperkinetic funnyman John Leguizamo last played the Bay Area, when he workshopped his newest solo show, then called Klass Klown, at the Berkeley Rep. Following the confessional tone established by his previous solo shows, such as Freak, which in which he recreated moments from his stormy adolescence, and Sexaholix...a Love Story, which tackled both his playa heyday and his rehabilitated foray into fatherhood and married life, his renamed, award-winning Ghetto Klown focuses on his career trajectory in a format that's part documentary, part tell-all exposé.

Now returning for a brief victory lap at the Orpheum Theatre, Leguizamo is looking forward to reconnecting with his West Coast fans. I managed to catch up with him over the telephone and got him to dish on the evolution of his show, his newfound love of touring, and the key to his boundless energy.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Why did you decided to tackle this particular narrative?

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The Performant: Burning down the haus

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The Arsonists at Aurora Theatre crackles and sears
 
If there was ever a time to revive a play best known for its condemnation of the silent complicity of the comfortable classes in times of civil unrest and encroaching disaster, this might well be one of the best. And Max Frisch’s 60 year-old classic Herr Biedemann und die Brandstifter, newly translated (in 2007) by Alistair Beaton as The Arsonists, might prove to be one of the timeliest of cautionary tales to revive. Currently playing at the Aurora Theatre, two years after its bang-up American premiere at the Odyssey Theatre in LA, this Mark Jackson-directed farce might play on the surface as a cheerfully absurdist comedy of manners, but the pointed cultural critique that underlies it is deadly serious.

“It’s hard just lighting a cigar,” observes Biedermann (Dan Hiatt) plaintively at the top of the show, as a trio of uninvited firefighters (Kevin Clarke, Tristan Cunningham, Micheal Uy Kelly) menaces him into putting said cigar and lighter away, before introducing themselves as the “guardians of the city,” and its unacknowledged conscience.

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Save the San Francisco Mime Troupe's summer season!

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All the world may be a stage, but as San Francisco Mime Troupe fans are finding out, it’s not a free one.

Even as we gleefully contemplate a Fleet Week sans Blue Angels, truly the silver lining of sequestration, the news that the San Francisco Mime Troupe is facing an immediate financial crisis reminds us of its downsides as well. After several anticipated grants failed to be awarded to the acclaimed theatrical collective, including one from longtime funders the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mime Troupe announced that it needs to raise $40,000 by the end of April in order to mount its summer tour of a show about natural resources and climate change tentatively entitled Oil and Water.

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Words, words, words permeate a couple of unconventional theater options this weekend

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The scattered letters piled on the floor are alternately a lover, a tormentor, a terrible reminder, a set of mysterious directives, and a bed for restless dreaming for Ophelia — or rather, one of her three incarnations — as French company Carte Blanche presents its roaming, site-specific riff on Shakespeare’s sad heroine, with inspiration drawn from Arthur Rimbaud’s famous elegy.
 
But despite all those missives from a certain gloomy prince, the piece makes much use of silence too, as the audience mills around the Firehouse at Fort Mason Center, watching the agitated actions of three young heroines in various rooms before being led outside for a journey to other environs.

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Good grief

Julie Marie Myatt recasts 1970s nostalgia for our own bleak times in 'The Happy Ones'

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER "Oh, this stupid war. I don't know who to blame anymore, do you?"

So asks aging American divorcée Mary-Ellen (Marcia Pizzo), in 1975 Southern California, of Vietnamese war refugee Bao (Jomar Tagatac), who has lost his entire family back home. It's a fraught question that, maybe fittingly, receives no answer. But it's made all the more complicated and troubling in the Magic Theatre production of Julie Marie Myatt's 2009 comedy-drama, The Happy Ones.Read more »

Spring into arts

Guardian writers select the season's most-anticipated performances, exhibits, film events, and more

It's true that San Francisco doesn't really have seasons, per se. We don't have a snow thaw, or a sudden riot of cherry blossoms, or even a perceptible change in the weather to mark calendar shifts. So grab that lightweight jacket you've been wearing since October, and use our selective guide to what music shows to see (dude ... Sparks is coming!), gallery and museum shows to hit up, films to catch, and can't-miss theater and dance performances — including, yep, a fresh take on The Rite of Spring.Read more »

Whereabouts of W. Kamau Bell: a Q&A

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Q Hey, whatever happened to W. Kamau Bell?
 
A Pretty sure the politically astute Bay Area comedian, writer, and director went on to fame in TV land as host of FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.*
 
*True, but he’s back this weekend for two late-night sets at Stage Werx.

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The Performant: Playing in the Sandbox

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SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series puts play back into playwriting

It’s getting harder each year to determine when exactly the “off-season” is in terms of things to do in the City, considering that this past, random weekend in February alone saw collisions of three major festivals -- SF Sketchfest, SF Indie Fest, and SF Beer Week -- on top of all the usual openings and closings and goings on. In fact, it’s been so hectic (albeit muy divertido) that the Performant is going to break protocol and look ahead to an event lingering just on the horizon, to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the onslaught of events to come.

Founded in 2010, SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series is a play series (beginning Feb. 27) that inhabits a region somewhere between staged reading and full production -- offering new plays a full run and technical support, without breaking the bank on design and promotion.

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