Scoping out the local arts and culture scene ...
If there were a Best of the Bay category for performance space with the catchiest moniker, I’ve always felt that Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory had a clear lock on the title. That’s just one of the many things about the place I’ll miss when it shuts its doors, possibly for good, at the end of this month (though a loose association of affiliated artists including acting MCVF director Ernesto Sopprani, have announced their intention to continue as Theoffcenter, so look for future programming from them in an as-yet-undetermined location).
Speaking of clever monikers, for a last show in a vital location, you couldn’t ask for a better than Alicia Ohs’ dance-theatre production, “When I Die I Will be Dead.” But walking into Mama Calizo’s, instead of death’s muffled pall, a scene of lively chaos immediately unfolded. Each member of the oddience was given a number upon entering the space, split into two groups, and taught a quick dance routine that none of us mastered in the few short moments we were given to try.
As the casting director, Alicia Ohs, dressed in a white button-down short exhorted us to “Eat Nails!” we shuffled our feet and flopped our arms around lamely. Clearly Broadway bound we were not. Mercifully allowed our seats after about five minutes, the rest of the mostly comical “New York, I Love You! I Hate You…Now Dance” ensued; a “Chorus Line” send-up complete with a “One” finale. The evening’s second piece, “Dokuen,” was more nuanced. From the physical comedy of an auditionee being locked in a trunk of memories (Hana Erdman), to the raw anguish of dancers José Navarrete and Ay.Lin hurling paint at the walls, flowers across the floor, and abuse at each other, the self-revelatory vignettes spoke voluminously of loss though few words were used. The reappearance of Erdman as memory’s avatar made the act of saying farewell a study in grace—an appropriate finale for yet one more casualty in the trenches of the art wars.
Meanwhile, across town, in the crowded Café Royale, loss of life, limb, and the last tattered shreds of (in)dignity were being explored by San Francisco Theatre Pub with their free staged reading of "Ubu Roi" -- adapted by company member Bennett Fisher. As the oafish would-be-king of Poland played by Sam Leichter cursed, spat, and clawed his way to the top, his power-hungry wife Mere Ubu (Catherine Lardas) gave the term Machiavellian a feminine touch as she urged him forward, then stood out of the way of his inglorious fall. Though it initially seemed that as many people came to hear the guest deejay (DJ Wait What) spin as to see the classic forerunner of absurdist theatre (overheard: “I think it’s about a king. It’s set in France.”), the café crowd soon became a cheering, catcalling, mass of enthusiastic participation. Directors of reading series take note: a spoonful of alcohol helps the medicine go down. And bartenders: a spoonful of Ubu can only help the alcohol sales go up.