Theater

Chair and chair alike

Adam Bock plumbs the depths of commitment in The Shaker Chair
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What we owe one another, whether family, friends, fellow human beings, or just fellow creatures — and how we define we in the first place — is a perennial question of both politics and art. Read more »

Disaster preparedness

Ellen Gavin's Stardust and Empty Wagons: Stories from the Katrina Diaspora
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Above a semicircle of wooden crates arranged on a weathered wooden stage, two tattered flags of New Orleans and the United States are projected on a back screen. The flags appear to flutter in the rotating series of overlapping still images. Read more »

I feel pretty

Keeping up with appearances in elastic future's Beautiful and ACT's The Rainmaker
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"Make my world beautiful," commands the (drag) queen (Flynn Witmeyer) of her corseted courtiers. The incantation naturally has something defiant and (given our location in a loft on Capp near 16th Street) maybe even a little urgent about it, summoning the new Eden as an unruly if royal realm of gender-blurring sexual role play and uninhibited frolic. Naturally too there's bound to be trouble in paradise, the intruder in this instance being no snake but rather a pair of slithering fish-head waiters. Read more »

Goldie winner -- Theater: foolsFURY

Where kinetic energy meets darkly alluring words
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One of the first things to strike you about a foolsFURY production is its sheer kinetic energy and rigorous physical vocabulary. Hovering somewhere between modern dance and mime, or maybe the fashion runway and the circus, the movement of the actors onstage suggests tightly coiled regimentation and an unpredictable, acrobatic freedom. Bodies rewrite the most seemingly inconsequential gestures as larger than life or in an altogether different register, so that you might suddenly see and wonder at them.

But the next thing to strike you will surely be the words. Read more »

Lean and meaty

ACT delivers a tasty Sweeney Todd
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The word musical normally connotes light fare. But in its latest Broadway reincarnation, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street lends, in addition to bravura performances, a bracingly morbid bite to American Conservatory Theater's new season.

Of course, that doesn't stop Sweeney from delivering vigorous entertainment. Director-designer John Doyle's attractively reconceived, Tony Award–winning revival of the groundbreaking Stephen Sondheim musical serves up a theatrical feast from, yes, soup to nuts. Read more »

Once more unto the Fringe

The San Francisco Fringe Festival
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The San Francisco Fringe Festival, second oldest in the United States, is a full-blown teenager this year and intends, by the look of its sneak preview, to act its age. Sixteen candles equal roughly 500 performances from 100 acts reliably ranging all over the place — from an ex-Christian throwing down (Jesus Rant) to a two-woman portrait of transgressing poet Anne Sexton (Her Kind) to a new musical ("RM3") set inside a Southern Congressional campaign that incorporates songs by Ben Folds. Read more »

Flocking together

Nanos Operetta and inkBoat journey into the absurd and hilarious world of love
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They are an odd couple, the giant canary and the lounge-suited would-be lover. Yet you can't help rooting for the unlikely protagonists of Our Breath Is as Thin as a Hummingbird's Spine, Nanos Operetta and inkBoat's collaborative journey into the absurd and hilarious world of love offered and rejected. In two acts and at 75 minutes, this witty charmer drags a bit midway; it probably could be condensed into one act without losing any of its considerable flair. Read more »

The love below

Investigating untidy matters of the heart
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Flexing muscles new and old, the 34-season-strong Asian American Theater Company bounds into its new home at Thick House with young Los Angeles playwright Michael Golamco's wry 2005 comedy, Cowboy vs. Read more »

If the "Shrew" fits

Cutting Ball Theater dresses Shakespeare in San Francisco drag
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By early last week the pace of rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew had picked up at the Magic Theatre. It was time for the Cutting Ball Theater to try a run-through of the whole play, and performers and crew bustled in preparation. Sound designer Cliff Caruthers, seated at a computer console halfway up the raked house, was busy cuing invigorating blasts of Italian hip-hop and other atmospheric sounds. Actors, with obvious gusto, practiced leaping on one another, tumbling onto the floor, shouting, screaming, and miming outrageous slapstick violence. Read more »

What comes around

In The Cycle Plays, Theatre of Yugen looks to uncover a spirit in every tone
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PREVIEW Until stumbling on The Wishing Bone Cycle some years back, I hadn't wondered why owls die with wings outspread or how a man wearing antlers on his head can be tricked into thinking that real moose are after him. Yet Howard Norman's eye-opening transcription-translations of Swampy Cree narrative poems are so arresting that I still find new questions in my life just to bring them to the stories. The tales invariably answer with bigger inquiries of their own. Read more »