Theater

Harmon's way

Dan Harmon charts his own course through the comedy universe

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Dan Harmon, performing at this year's SF Sketchfest, is on the phone, talking about therapy. He's explaining his belief that a person can find a mental illness for anything they can name, with some fetishistic examples. "There are people out there who like to be walked on," the creator and former show runner of NBC's Community says. "There's people who like to eat human fecal matter. There's people who want to have sex with kites."Read more »

The Performant: Manic pixies

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'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' and 'The Witch House' roil with fantastickal energies

It was only a matter of time before the familiar genre of the comic book movie migrated to the stage. But don’t expect any muscle-bound jocks in colorful spandex roaming the aisles of A.C.T.’s intimate mid-Market venue, The Costume Shop. Not only is the titular “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” of their current production not a superhero with mutant powers bestowed upon her by a quirk of DNA or gamma rays, but in a twist, the comic book involved actually originates from the play -- not the other way around.

The play centers mainly around a youthfully shiftless, struggling painter Tallman (Joshua Roberts), whose dire straits and afternoon drinking habits lead to a chance encounter with one of cinematic fiction’s most enduring tropes, the Nathan Rabin-dubbed MPDG Lilly (Lyndsy Kail), a woman who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventure.”

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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 »

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 »

GOLDIES 2012: Mica Sigourney

Drag-rooted performance works that question the egotism of the artist and the role of the audience

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GOLDIES Regular appearances are not Mica Sigourney's thing. True, most Friday nights you'll find alt-persona VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! at the Stud hosting Some Thing, the boisterously resourceful drag cavalcade (formerly Tiara Sensation) started two years ago with drag mother Glamamore and dj down-E. Even there, though, you couldn't call VivvyAnne's appearance regular: one night it's ersatz Dior, another it's lipstick, hobo beard, and a jock strap.Read more »

GOLDIES 2012: Anna Ishida

A a chameleon-like quality and versatile vocals that make her so compelling to watch on stage.

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GOLDIES One of the very first things you'll notice about Anna Ishida, onstage and off, is an aura of self-possession that simultaneously grounds her and yet sets her ever-so-subtly apart in a crowd. But she also has a chameleon-like quality, a way of blending seamlessly into her surroundings, whether it's a 49-seat black box theater on Natoma Street, or the hip buzz of Farley's East in Oakland, where we meet over coffee and sandwiches.Read more »