Theater

The Performant: Arctic mysteria

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Cold trippin', direct from Berlin

Thirty seconds after we walk into Bindlestiff Studio, S. is sold on kInDeRdEuTsCh pRoJeKtS’ production of “Arctic Hysteria.” He instantly recognizes their preshow music as being a Neue Deutsche Welle song he’s currently enamored with, “Eisbaer” by Grauzone, in which the author expresses a deep desire to be a polar bear. “Alles waer so klar!”

“This is the song I was just talking about,” he exclaims with satisfaction (it’s true) as we settle into our seats to gaze at the Community Thrift meets Matthew Barney set (designed by Sue Rees): corrugated white pressboard walls, an easy chair and matching ottoman covered in leopard print, an uncomfortable-looking brocade couch, a static-filled television set in the corner, a silver decanter and goblets on a roller tray. An innocuous enough setting for a play named for a contested form of madness particular to the arctic, supposedly characterized by uncontrolled outbursts, mimicry, echolalia, and coprophagia; keywords which might also be used to describe a typical Saturday night out in San Francisco.

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The Performant: Viva la woman

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Three playful performances by women offered vastly different perspectives. 

Where’re the ladies at? Same place they’ve always been, really. Dancing backward in high heels. Getting on with the business of living while all around the world threatens to crash down around their feet. Politics. Murders. Institutionalized systems of oppression. Climate change. Is optimism overplayed? Or is hope all we have to keep us moving forward? This past weekend, three playful pieces gave stage time to the notion of moving forward in a world gone mad, each created and performed by a contingent of strong female figures, each bucking, in their own way, conventional wisdom on femininity and the future, with striking results.

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The Performant: Storming the Bastille

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How fortunate for lovers of patriotic display, that just as the last of the illegal Fourth of July fireworks have been shot off, the 14th should roll around, giving us all another excuse to celebrate liberty, equality and fraternity en français. Of course Bastille Day, France’s Fête Nationale, is much less the spectacle in Californi-ay than along the Champs Elysees, but you’ll still find the Francophones of (don’t-call-it) Frisco decked out in their own brand of red-white-and-blue sipping Bordeaux and nibbling on quiche, if not rioting in the streets.

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Asylum seekers

'Marat/Sade' channels revolutionary yearnings and glorious excess from 1789 to 2012

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The Performant: Why a duck?

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Pianofight takes on Tchaikovsky -- and the death of theatre -- and Boxcar's Hedwig has us humming in the shower.

Zombies are so over. The next monster movie massacre sensations are totally going to be murderous waterfowl, so props to PianoFight and Mission CTRL for jumping on that bandwagon before it even rolled out of the studios with their ensemble-created, ballet-horror-comedy, Duck Lake. When Raymond Hobbs as theatre director Barry Canteloupe (sic) boasts “no one has ever done what we are about to do,” while tweaking his own nipples, you get the feeling he’s talking about more than the production he is supposedly directing -- a musical theatre adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

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A queerness in Harlem, finely revived

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Visual alchemy, fabulous feminist story-telling, and something deemed “hyper-literate busking” abound at 2012’s Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance fesitval, three nights of art and performance (Thu/28-Sat/30) by 21 LGBTQ African Americans.

Part of the 15th National Queer Arts Festival, Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance continues the legacy of the droves of artists, performers, and activists who questioned stale societal standards in a myriad ways during the heyday of the New York City neighborhood's 1920s and 30s creative blossoming: from sensual lyrics of Bessie Smith to the pointed poetics of Langston Hughes, the artists of the Harlem Renaissance continue to testify to the assertion that social causes are rarely separate and constantly progressing.

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Female trouble

In Berkeley, 'Salomania' and 'Emotional Creature' take on the war on women

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER We've come a long way, baby, but why does it feel like women's equality is a legal concept that still troubles the status quo? This past year has proven that the erosion of women's rights remains a powerful political agenda across the country, with state bans on certain forms of abortion, the redefinition of rape, and the blocking of the Paycheck Fairness Act.Read more »

Compassion and fervor in Berkeley Rep’s 'Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men'

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"I want them to look at me, to look me in the eyes," states Dael Orlandersmith, using a British accent to portray one of at least ten different characters she plays in her tour de force solo show Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, at Berkeley Rep through June 23.
 
After 90 minutes, the audience was definitely squirming in its seats. Orlandersmith tackles a barrage of characters, each of whom related in some degree to the subjects of mental, physical, and sexual abuse of boys and men. But despite the challenging material, I do not think many viewers would have wanted the play to be any shorter. ("There was hope in it," I heard an audience member say as we walked out of the theater.)

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'Wanted Man': resurrecting Johnny Cash's San Quentin concert

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What did it mean for Johnny Cash to “Walk the Line”? At First Person Singular's one night only (May 28) performance of Wanted Man: Johnny Cash at San Quentin at Berkeley's Ashby Stage, star Josh Pollock argued that we can all relate to the fine line that Cash walked his entire life.
 
He was never jailed for his drinking or drug problems, but as he performed at San Quentin prison — recorded for his now-classic 1969 album At San Quentin, the follow-up to 1968's At Folsom Prison — he is said to have looked out at the inmates and thought how close he had been, so many days and nights, to tipping over a precarious edge. June Carter, God, and his guitar kept him on the right side of the law (rock 'n' roll fun fact: he was arrested, once, for picking flowers).

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The Performant: Traveler's tales

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The WE Players' courageous Odyssey on Angel Island

It’s an overcast morning, typical San Francisco springtime, but upon disembarking from the Angel Island ferry at Ayala Cove, we are transported imaginatively to the island kingdom of Ithaca, where a merry band of brash suitors vie for the attentions of the fair Penelope (Libby Kelly) outside her palace, which might have otherwise been mistaken for the Angel Island visitor’s center.

A bevy of serving girls approach each disoriented oddience member to offer sustenance and mysterious smiles, as the suitors challenge a stalwart few to join in the contests for Penelope’s hand -- tug-of-war, footraces, pushing competitions. So begins the WE Players newest production “The Odyssey on Angel Island,” an all-day performance combining the elements of a hero’s quest with a day hike around Angel Island State Park -- one of the Bay Area’s loveliest natural treasures.

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