Theater

May day

History runs up against a wall in America Tropical
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The May Day rampage of the Los Angeles Police Department over peaceful protesters and journalists at an immigrants' rights march lends an undeniable immediacy to America Tropical, a new and at times poignant chamber opera by composer David Conte and librettist Oliver Mayer that addresses the legacy of racial and class exploitation built into the very fabric of the City of Angels.

The compact 60-minute work, which premiered April 27 at the Thick House under the auspices of San Francisco's Thick Description, takes its cue from América Tropic Read more »

Meeting acute

Gore Vidal lands an interview with Timothy McVeigh in Edmund White's Terre Haute
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REVIEW In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, one of the only voices raised on behalf of understanding Timothy McVeigh — that is, as someone slightly more complicated than a Hollywood-style incarnation of pure evil — was that of Gore Vidal. Vidal insisted on pointing to the obvious: the bombing of offices that included the local headquarters of the FBI and the ATF — although utterly cruel and misguided in leading to 168 deaths — was not arbitrary wickedness but a carefully considered act of revenge. Read more »

Still evolving

Boxcar Theatre learns to adapt with Vonnegut
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The human race either sinks or swims. That's evolution as Charles Darwin first saw it. But flippers and a seal pelt, that's pure Kurt Vonnegut. The novelist plays God like no other, wresting the species from its self-destruction, then sending it on its wobbly way with a childlike capacity for invention and a wry if discontented grasp of human folly. That's Galápagos, anyway, his 1985 best-seller in which evolution saves humankind from its big and mischievous brains by sending it back to the sea. Read more »

Home run

"After the War" lucidly strikes home
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HOME RUN: AFTER THE WAR LUCIDLY STRIKES HOME

Philip Kan Gotanda's After the War, enjoying an exceptional world premiere at the American Conservatory Theater, is set during 1948 in a Fillmore boardinghouse run by a laid-back jazz musician and second-generation Japanese American named Chester "Chet" Monkawa (Vancouver's Hiro Kanagawa in an impressive US debut). Read more »

"Good German," bad German

A new play is provocative; a classic's latest guise is not
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The title of David Wiltse's 2003 play, The Good German, points in two directions at once: there's the image of the individual who stands up to the injustice being perpetrated by his or her government, and there's the image of the individual who follows the flag, however reluctantly, wherever it may lead. Of the play's four characters, only one looks even remotely like a saint, and she's killed early on. Read more »

"Rust" never sleeps

The Magic's annual Hot House fest yields a discovery
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Between Kirsten Greenidge's rumbling and ambitious Rust and Chantal Bilodeau's titilutf8g if more staid Pleasure and Pain, a metatheme is already emerging from the Magic Theatre's annual three-play Hot House festival. Both Greenidge and Bilodeau merge a contemporary identity-focused story line and a fractured mise-en-scène to explore the porous border between mundane reality and individual and collective fictions.

Rust centers on a troubled patch in the high-flying career of football star Randall Mifflin (Mikaal Sulaiman). Read more »

Pillow talk

Storytelling makes for gripping theater in Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman
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The cold air these last weeks has played foul-weather friend to a couple chilling stage stories about serial child killers — one of them is even called Frozen. Both were recently toasts of Broadway too, though only one includes scary little apple men (not to mention the titular figure of a giant fellow made of soft cushions). Read more »

WOW now

Molissa Fenley highlights the second program of a growing festival
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Every January the Women on the Way Festival throws a spotlight on the performing arts as practiced by the female of the species. Not that producer Mary Alice Fry has to dig very deep in the field of dance, which is still heavily dominated by women. (For the moment we have to leave the reasons to sociologists — or perhaps psychiatrists.)

If this year's second of three programs is any indication, the festival's move from a tiny space on Ninth Street to Dance Mission Theater a couple years ago has blunted its funky edge. Read more »

Goldies Theatre winner Last Planet Theatre

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Offensive. Repugnant. Sick. Few theater directors enjoy hearing these words from patrons, especially as they're bolting up the aisle ahead of the first-act curtain. Then again, for some there's a certain satisfaction in knowing you're still on track.
"The audiences are getting bigger," notes Last Planet Theatre's artistic director, John R. Wilkins. "Sometimes they hate it and walk out. They aren't walking out, out of boredom. They're walking out because it's too much."
That's all right with him, provided what offends is delivered with artistic skill, vision, and honesty. Read more »

Close encounters

The always in-search-of Erica Shuch sends her talents into Orbit
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Love is more than metaphor in Orbit (notes from the edge of forever). Love is like the intractable need connected to the exploration of space — especially when the search is bent toward the hope of some ultimate encounter: that contact with somebody, out there, who knows who you are. Read more »