A Behanding in Spokane
May 15–Jun. 30
Martin McDonagh supposedly wrote all of his first seven plays in one long stretch in 1994, when he was 24, then left theatre to its own devices to turn to movies, writing and directing the noir comedy “In Bruges” and the upcoming “Seven Psychopaths.” “A Behanding in Spokane” is his first play since that initial spurt of activity, and it’s also the London-born Irish playwright’s first play set in the United States, with all of the others except “The Pillowman” set in rural Ireland. But it would be a mistake to think it’s some great stylistic departure. McDonagh’s scripts are known for their shocking violence and ghoulish humor, and that certainly carries over into “Spokane.” Debuting on Broadway in 2010, the play concerns a man who’s been looking for his own severed hand for nearly 50 years and now meets a young couple who claim to have his hand for sale. Expect lies, racial epithets, body parts and possibly bullets to fly. Producing director Susi Damilano directs Rod Gnapp, Melissa Quine, Daveed Diggs and Alex Hurt in SF Playhouse’s regional premiere.
Sam’s Other Picks
May 24–Jun. 24
The Magic’s 2010 world premiere of Luis Alfaro’s “Oedipus el Rey” was something remarkable—a muscular and immediate but also magical and transcendent modern retelling of Sophocles’ ancient tragedy. Alfaro had explored Greek tragedy in the barrio previously with “Electricidad,” his take on the Electra story that the big three Athenian tragedians had all explored in one play or another. But everyone knows that Greek tragedies come in threes, so now he follows those up with the Magic world premiere of “Bruja,” his response to Euripides’ “Medea.” Alfaro reteams with director Loretta Greco to take the ancient tale of the bloody revenge of a powerful woman seduced and abandoned for political expediency and transplant it to the present day. Visit magictheatre.org.
San Jose Repertory Theatre
May 10–Jun. 3
If you don’t already love Theresa Rebeck, you must not have been paying attention. Sure, the playwright’s last local show, “What We’re Up Against” at the Magic, didn’t manage to improve on the one-act on which it was based. But her other local productions have been whip-smart, from the dark infidelity satire “The Scene” at SF Playhouse (now adapted into “Seducing Charlie Barker,” a feature film helmed by that production’s director, Amy Glazer) to the Mametian stamp-collecting noir “Mauritius” that was Rebeck’s Magic debut. Now San Jose Rep reunites Rebeck and Glazer for the West Coast premiere of “The Understudy,” her 2008 backstage comedy about an action-movie star cast in a Kafka play, a resentful new understudy and the harried stage manager who was once engaged to him. Visit sjrep.com.
Goat Hall Productions
Cabaret opera outfit Goat Hall Productions has been doing a whole lotta Brecht/Weill lately, from concert versions of “The Threepenny Opera” to Weill-centric cabaret evenings. Next up is a staged production of the duo’s “Happy End” at Berkeley’s Live Oak Theatre. Written by Elisabeth Hauptmann, Brecht and Weill’s follow-up to “Threepenny” bears a striking similarity in plot to the unrelated later musical “Guys and Dolls,” in that it romantically entangles a Salvation Army missionary with urban lowlifes—the gangsters who inhabit a local beer hall—but boasts an anti-fat-cat ending that would do the Occupy movement proud. Not to mention some truly amazing songs, from “The Bilbao Song” to “Surabaya Johnny,” that are the real star attraction here. Visit goathall.org.
Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theatre, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization. E-mail email@example.com.