Theater

Schooling the teacher

Aurora Theatre's The First Grade tackles life lessons

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THEATER From the mouths of babes come some pretty hefty words in Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson's initially darkish, ultimately feel-goody new comedy: congenial, altruistic, pertinacious, solipsism. But it's the way they sound in the mouth of his protagonist, 57-year-old first-grade teacher Sydney (a thoroughly disarming Julia Brothers), that gets our attention. They're new to her too for the most part, at least in daily use. Read more »

Curtain calls

The year that almost ate China, or after the deluge

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THEATER Up to around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, Thrillpeddlers were having a very good year. One of 2009's Goldie recipients, the city's connoisseurs of Grand Guignol–style fresh flesh were riding a remarkable wave of success with their inspired revival of Pearls over Shanghai, by San Francisco's storied Cockettes, when an altogether different current overtook them.Read more »

Revisiting the ReOrient

Golden Thread's festival of plays exploring the Middle East turns 10
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER It's the fall of 2001. The Americans have arrived. The Taliban is, for the moment, displaced. A young Afghani woman named Alya (Sara Razavi) stands in a burka, holding a suitcase. She's met by her older sister, Meena (Nora el Samahy), returned from England to fetch her. Meena wears a headscarf but leaves her face proudly, fearlessly uncovered. She speaks of the freedoms ahead of them, the chance to study, even to talk to men. Alya is scandalized and fascinated.

The two sisters go on to engage in petty quarrels, teasing. Read more »

Beth Wilmurt

GOLDIES 2009: An unexpected approach to acting which animates devastatingly unassuming characters
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arts@sfbg.com

Beth Wilmurt's whole approach to acting is a little unexpected, not unlike the devastatingly unassuming characters she can manifest — most recently, an excellent ensemble turn this year in Marcus Gardley's This World in a Woman's Hands at Shotgun Players. Over beers and enchiladas in the Mission District, she even confesses to a certain ambivalence. Read more »

Thrillpeddlers

GOLDIES 2009: Buzzers, blackouts, spook shows, and a thrilling resuscitation of "marginal" traditions
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If you dare! Venture to the Hypnodrome, home of San Francisco's Thrillpeddlers. The company is America's preeminent producer of plays from the Grand Guignol, the infamous Parisian theater that peddled thrills (if you will) from 1897-1962; the Hypnodrome, which seats 45, has been in operation for five years. The brave can choose to sit in "shock boxes" that line the theater's back row — each box is tricked out with buzzers and other devices designed to lend an extra-sensational experience. Read more »

Teeny 'Tiny'

Berkeley Rep's "Tiny Kushner" shows the towering playwright in lest than statuesque form
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THEATER A reunion between Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone and playwright Tony Kushner is a notable event. This is a relationship that goes back to the original production of Angels in America, after all. Currently up: Tiny Kushner. Read more »

Night of the living theater

Sleepwalkers' Zombie Town has brains (and eats them, too!)
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER A small Texas 'burb has just suffered attack by a horde of reanimated corpses, which can happen to anyone. Read more »

Quintessence

Sins Invalid puts the spotlight on sexuality and disability
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THEATER San Francisco's Brava Theatre is mostly dark, except for the spotlights on stage. Under the white light, singer Nomy Lamm's face peers out from under the beak of a vulture headpiece. She flaps her feathered wings and thrusts her hips, like she is working a hula hoop in slow motion.

"I remember the feel of your hands on my body," Lamm sings. "Makes me scream, 'Am I broken?'"

It is three weeks before the premiere of this year's Sins Invalid's performance art show of the same name, and artistic director Patty Berne sits near the back of the theater. Read more »

Musical melange

Brief Encounter and South Pacific hit low and high notes
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arts@sfbg.com

STAGE Kneehigh Theatre's Noël Coward–inspired cinema-theater hybrid, Brief Encounter, the British import currently up at American Conservatory Theater, is a shrewd melding of winning formulas borrowed from more adventurous recent theatrical works as well as old-time British music hall entertainments. Read more »

Fringe follies

Sizing up SF's eclectic theater festival
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The San Francisco Fringe Festival is, like, 18 or something this year. That used to mean you were middle-aged in, like, the Middle Ages. But this is 2000-and-something. The multi-venue Exit Theatre–centered Fringe, lottery-based democratic mayhem at its most unsound and intriguing, appears as youthful as ever. Read more »