California Shakespeare Theatre
“George C. Wolfe, Zora Neale Hurston, and Patricia McGregor walk into a bar...” But seriously, folks, if you stacked up the combined stage credits and street cred of this production’s authors and director, you could stand on top and see all the way to kingdom come. Hurston, a major force in the Harlem Renaissance, wrote the three short stories (“Sweat,” “Story in Harlem Slang” and “The Gilded Six-Bits”) on which George C. Wolfe—author of “Jelly’s Last Jam” and Tony Award–winning director of “Angels in America” in 1993—based his theatrical adaptation, which landed Wolfe an Obie in 1989. This complex play is structured into three vignettes and marked by the blues and jazz aesthetic, highly stylized language and gritty daily life of early-20th-century Harlem. This production is directed by Patricia McGregor, a Harlem resident and Yale drama grad whose polyglot directing approach includes dance, music, rapping and other expressive arts that pick up where dialogue stops. Sounds like a promising match. Visit calshakes.org.
Laura’s Other Picks
City of Sin: Mahagonny Songspiel/Vera of Las Vegas
West Edge Opera
Jul. 29–Aug. 5
Kurt Weill’s music (like his collaborator Brecht’s dramaturgy) has challenged audiences, practitioners and students since his first composition in 1913. In the US, Weill is arguably most famous for his lurching, howling “Alabama Song,” which hit the mainstream (sort of) when the Doors covered it in 1966, with Jim Morrison demurely inquiring the way to the next whiskey bar. “Alabama Song” is from the 1927 “Mahagonny Songspiel,” Brecht and Weill’s first major stage hit. This production dresses up the “Songspiel’s” ferocious social satire in luxe 1920s cabaret and jazz style, pairing it with another one-act, “Vera of Las Vegas,” which features a pop-music mashup score reorchestrated for the slinky house cabaret band. Don’t even try to tell me you don’t want to hear that. Visit westedgeopera.org.
Truffaldino Says No
Jun. 30–Jul. 22
That modern television sitcoms are essentially commedia dell’arte plays plus telephones is sort of a theatrical truism (at least if you hang out with the same comedy/theatre history geeks I do). But local playwright Ken Slattery (did you hear that? Local playwright - hurrah!) has taken this genealogical influence one step further and unleashed a commedia/sitcom mashup that puts the Harlequin-type character Truffaldino center stage, jets him across the Atlantic and makes mad laughter of the resulting identity crises and philosophical yearnings. The play began to take shape while Slattery was part of the writers’ pool at PlayGround, which is now a coproducer of the show, directed by the indefatigable M. Graham Smith. Who let the zannis out? Visit shotgunplayers.org.
Circle Mirror Transformation
Marin Theatre Company
If you’ve been enjoying the recent Annie Baker love fest in the Bay Area (and really, why wouldn’t you?), with the playwright’s 2007 BAPF winner “Body Awareness” going up at Aurora this past January and the West Coast premiere of her more recent (and Obie Award–winning) hit “The Aliens” at SF Playhouse in March, why not score a Baker trifecta and catch (the also Obie-winning) “Circle Mirror Transformation” at MTC? Listing this play’s awards and honors would take up the rest of this paragraph, so Google it and be impressed. Meanwhile: the play itself focuses on four students in an adult-community-center acting class, with all the tenderness, comedy, aggression and terror such a setup implies. Visit marintheatre.org.
Laura Brueckner is associate editor for Theatre Bay Area. She is also the director of new work for Crowded Fire Theater. Email her your favorite margarita recipe at email@example.com.
Margo Hall and L. Peter Callender in the California Shakespeare Theater production of “Spunk.”
Photo: Kevin Berne
Laura’s Editor’s Picks July/August 2012 by / Laura BruecknerPublished 2012-07-05
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