Theater Listings: August 7 - 13, 2013
Stage listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, and Nicole Gluckstern. Submit items for the listings at firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete stage listings, visit www.sfbg.com.
Marius Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; www.generationtheatre.com. $20-35. Opens Thu/8, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Aug 25. GenerationTheatre performs R. David Valayre's new English translation of Marcel Pagnol's classic about a man who dreams of traveling the seas.
Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Aug 25. Don Reed's new show offers more stories from his colorful upbringing in East Oakland in the 1960s and '70s. More hilarious and heartfelt depictions of his exceptional parents, independent siblings, and his mostly African American but ethnically mixed working-class community — punctuated with period pop, Motown, and funk classics, to which Reed shimmies and spins with effortless grace. And of course there's more too of the expert physical comedy and charm that made long-running hits of Reed's last two solo shows, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel (both launched, like this newest, at the Marsh). Can You Dig It? reaches, for the most part, into the "early" early years, Reed's grammar-school days, before the events depicted in East 14th or Kipling Hotel came to pass. But in nearly two hours of material, not all of it of equal value or impact, there's inevitably some overlap and indeed some recycling. Reed, who also directs the show, may start whittling it down as the run continues. But, as is, there are at least 20 unnecessary minutes diluting the overall impact of the piece, which is thin on plot already — much more a series of albeit often very enjoyable vignettes and some painful but largely unexplored observations, wrapped up at the end in a sentimental moral that, while sincere, feels rushed and inadequate. (Avila)
God of Carnage Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.com. $26-38. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 7. Shelton Theater performs Yasmina Reza's award-winning play about class and parenting.
Gold Rush! The Un-Scripted Barbary Coast Musical Un-Scripted Theater Company, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. The Un-Scripted Theater Company performs an improvised musical about gold-rush era San Francisco.
Gorgeous Hussy: An Interview With Joan Crawford Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $15-35. Fri/9 and Aug 15-16, 8pm. Running in repertory with Lawfully Wedded (below), this world premiere by Morgan Ludlow imagines a young writer's encounter with the legendary movie star.
How to Make Your Bitterness Work for You Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.stagewerx.org. $15-25. Mon-Tue, 8pm. Through Aug 27. Kent Underwood is a motivational speaker and self-help expert with some obvious baggage of his own in this solo play from former comedy writer and stand-up comedian Fred Raker (It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life). The premise, similar to that of Kurt Bodden's Steve Seabrook: Better Than You (ongoing at the Marsh), has the audience overlapping with participants in an Underwood seminar. Underwood, however, two years on the seminar circuit and still unable to get his book published, deviates from the script to answer texts related to a possible career breakthrough. Meanwhile, with the aid of some bullet points and illustrative slides, he explains the premise of said manuscript, "How to Make Your Bitterness Work For You," as the sad truth of his own underdog status emerges between the laugh lines. But where Bodden is careful to make his Seabrook a somewhat believable character despite the absurdity of it all (or rather, while firmly embracing the absurdity of the self-help industry itself), Raker and director Kimberly Richards put much more space between the playwright/performer and his character, which turns out to be a less effective strategy. Verisimilitude might not have mattered much if the comic material were stronger. Unfortunately, despite the occasional zinger, much of the humor is weak or corny and the narrative (interrupted at regular intervals by an artificial tone representing the arrival of a fresh text message) too contrived to sell us on the larger story. (Avila)
Keith Moon: The Real Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $40. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Aug 18. Was Keith Moon the greatest rock 'n' roll drummer ever? Veteran solo performer and drum stylist Mick Berry doesn't exactly come out and say so, but his biographical play about Moon definitely makes a good case for the possibility. Keith Moon: The Real Me, written and performed by Berry, kicks off with a literal bang, a hi-octane cover of "Baba O'Riley," featuring Berry's exuberantly crashing cymbals layered over the iconic, rapidfire synth riff that runs throughout the song. Though the characters of the play are all portrayed by Berry — with references to all the requisite sex, drugs, and self-destruction thrown into the mix — a full band stands at the ready behind two transparent screens to flesh out the show's strongest element: the rock-and-roll. In order to channel Moon's full-throttle drumming, Berry enlisted the assistance of Frank Simes, the music director of the Who's 2012-2013 tour, while to channel Moon's freewheeling but insecure personality, he enlisted local director Bobby Weinapple. The script itself is still ragged, and a couple of key moments, particularly when Moon's car is attacked in early 1970, are presented in such a way that the context comes later, which is confusing if you don't already know the history of the incident. But if you don't mind a bit of chat with your rock concert, you'll probably find this fusion of the two intriguing. Just remember, when the nice concessions people offer you complimentary earplugs, take them. (Gluckstern)
Lawfully Wedded: Plays About Marriage Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $15-35. Thu/8, Sat/10, and Aug 17, 8pm. Running in repertory with Gorgeous Hussy (above), this world premiere "collage of scenes and stories" by Morgan Ludlow, Kirk Shimano, and Alina Trowbridge takes on marriage equality.
Oil and Water This week: Troupe Studio Space, 855 Treat, SF; www.sfmt.org. Wed/7, 7pm, free (suggested donation $20; seating is limited so RSVP suggested at brownpapertickets.com/event/391924). Also Sat/10, 7pm, free, Community Park, East 14th and F St, Davis; and Sun/11, 4pm, free, Southside Park, Bandshell, Sixth and T St, Sacramento. After presenting 53 seasons of free theater in the parks of San Francisco (and elsewhere), the San Francisco Mime Troupe faced a financial crisis in April that threatened to shut down this season before it even started. The resultant show, funded by an influx of last-minute donations, is one cut considerably closer to the bone than in previous years: instead of one two-hour musical, it's two loosely-connected one-acts riffing on general environmentalist themes. In Deal With the Devil, a surprisingly sympathetic (not to mention downright hawt) Devil (Velina Brown) shows up to help an uncertain president (Rotimi Agbabiaka) regain his conscience and win back his soul, while in Crude Intentions adorable, progressive, same-sex couple Gracie (Velina Brown) and Tomasa (Lisa Hori-Garcia) wind up catering a "benefit" shindig for the Keystone XL Pipeline giving them the opportunity to perpetrate a little guerrilla direct action on a bombastic David Koch (Hugo E Carbajal). Throughout, the performers remain upbeat if somewhat over-extended as they sing, dance, and slapstick their way to the sobering conclusion that the time to turn things around in the battles over global environmental protection is now — or never. (Gluckstern)
So You Can Hear Me Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through Aug 24. A 23-year-old with no experience, just high spirits and big ideals, gets a job in the South Bronx teaching special ed classes and quickly finds herself in over her head. Safiya Martinez, herself a bright young woman from the projects, delivers this inspired accounting of her time not long ago in perhaps the most neglected sector of the public school system — a 60-minute solo play that makes up for its slim plot with a set of deft, powerful, lovingly crafted characterizations. These complex portraits, alternately hysterical and startling, offer their own moving ruminations on a violent but also vibrant stratum of American society, deeply fractured by pervasive poverty and injustice and yet full of restive young personalities too easily dismissed, ignored, or crudely caricatured elsewhere. An effervescent, big-hearted, and very talented performer, Martinez's own bounding personality and contagious passion for her former students (as complicated as that relationship was), makes this deeply felt tribute all the more memorable. (Avila)
Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through Aug 24. The bitter fruit of the personal growth industry may sound overly ripe for the picking, but Kurt Bodden's deftly executed "seminar" and its behind-the-scenes reveals, directed by Mark Kenward, explore the terrain with panache, cool wit, and shrewd characterization. As both writer and performer, Bodden keeps his Steve Seabrook just this side of overly sensational or maudlin, a believable figure, finally, whose all-too-ordinary life ends up something of a modest model of its own. (Avila)
Stories High XII: The Soma Edition Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.bindlestiffstudio.org. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 17. Four mini-plays about "living, working, playing, and struggling" in SoMa, written by Dianne Aquino Chui, Paolo Salazar, Cristal Fiel, and Conrad Panganiban.
Sweet Bird of Youth Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.tidestheatre.org. $20-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. Tides Theatre performs Tennessee Williams' Gulf Coast-set drama about an improbable couple.
Wunderworld Creativity Theater, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.wunderworld.net. $10-15. Sat/10-Sun/11, 2pm (also Sat/10, 11am; Sun/11, 5pm). In an irresistible boost to the Children's Creativity Museum's new Creativity Theater (formerly Zeum), beloved Bay Area comedian, playwright, and performer Sara Moore (Show Ho) teams up with gifted co-writer and performer Michael Phillis (The Bride of Death) and director Andrew Nance for a largely wordless, but gabble-packed, family-friendly comedy that asks what Alice might find down the rabbit hole were she to tumble down it again as an octogenarian? The 60-minute play showcases the elastic features and sharp comedic instincts of both Moore (as a hilarious and heartfelt Alice, whom no one recognizes these days unless she stretches her face smooth again) and Phillis (who kicks things off with a mimed pre-curtain speech deserving of its own encore, before coming back as the now droopy-eared White Rabbit). Equally endearing are performances by Dawn Meredith Smith (as Caterpillar, Red Queen, and a rest home nurse), choreographer Rory Davis (as the Cheshire Cat), and the inimitable Joan Mankin as Alice's bored nursing-home roommate and the Mad Hatter. (Avila)
A Comedy of Errors Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Sept 29; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company presents a cowboy-themed spin on the Bard's classic.
No Man's Land Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $35-135. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Thu and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Aug 29); Wed and Sun/11, 7pm (also Aug 28, 2pm); Aug 18 and 25, 2pm. Through Aug 31. Acting legends and erstwhile X-Men Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen star in this pre-Broadway engagement of Harold Pinter's play.
Sea of Reeds Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Aug 18. Although the introduction of supporting characters, musicians, and a musical score (by Marco D'Ambrosio) breaks new ground for a longtime solo artist, Sea of Reeds is classic Josh Kornbluth. Directed by longtime creative partner David Dower, the show features the boyish comedic persona, the intricate storytelling, and the biographical referents that have given him a loyal following over the years. Diehard fans aside, the show's cheesy, somewhat self-regarding conceit of staging "spontaneous" interactions between Kornbluth and his trainer (Beth Wilmurt) may not work with everyone. Perhaps more challenging, though, is the persistence of a less than fully examined disjunction between the political values of his parents and his own political and ethical evolution — a disjunction highlighted here in the narrative's fraught Middle Eastern setting and its vague navigation between the violence of religious zealotry and a plea for tolerance. (Avila)
The Wiz Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. Wed-Thu and Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Aug 25. The first time I saw the movie version of The Wiz with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne (among others) it pretty much blew my young, Wizard of Oz-loving mind, swapping funky R&B for syrupy ballads, sophisticated silver pumps in place of the familiar sequined red ones, and mean city streets and subways in place of the more bucolic surroundings of the 1939 Victor Fleming film. Unfortunately, from a certain perspective, the 1970s feel just about as dated today as the 1930s, and consequently The Wiz doesn't seem quite as innovative as it once did. And while there are some nods to the political climate of today made by the creative team behind the Berkeley Playhouse's production (such as a pair of almost randomly-wielded rainbow flags, and a handful of t-shirts printed with peace-and-love messages), they mostly steer clear of making any kind of overt statements, even in regards to the all black casting (now thoroughly integrated). Similarly, many of the trappings of the "seventies" have also been axed in favor of more fanciful, almost cartoonish, costuming and choreography. It's long for a children's musical, clocking in at around two-and-a-half hours, but that seems no deterrent to the plucky Wiz Kidz youth ensemble who tread the floorboards as a pack of munchkins, a band of sweatshop laborers, and a groovy bunch of glammed-up citizens of the Emerald City. Grown-up voices of special note belong to Taylor Jones as Dorothy, Nicole Julien as Aunt Em/Glinda, Amy Lizardo as Addaperle, Reggie D. White as Tin Man, and Sarah Mitchell as Evillene. (Gluckstern) *