When people turn into rhinoceroses and rampage around the streets, that seems like a public nuisance, something to be concerned about. But when everyone starts turning into rhinoceroses, everyone except you—well, maybe the problem isn’t them after all, is it? Maybe it’s you. I mean, come on, everybody’s doing it. Inspired by the rise of fascism in his native Romania, Eugène Ionesco’s 1960 play “Rhinoceros” has become not just an absurdist classic of the avant-garde but a masterpiece of the theatrical canon. Steeped in physical theatre, director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota’s staging for Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville debuted in 2004 to much acclaim, and now Cal Performances brings it to UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall for three performances. The play is performed in the original French, with English supertitles. Visit calperformances.org.
Sam’s Other Picks
I hope the tragic movie-theatre shooting the weekend “The Dark Night Rises” opened doesn’t turn people off Batman-related entertainment entirely, because the existence of horrific, senseless crimes like that is why we need Batman in the first place. Fortunately, not even “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was enough to dissuade Nick Grace of Walter Lane Productions from producing “Batman Live,” a live-action arena extravaganza featuring a full symphonic score, giant video backgrounds, an acrobatic 42-member cast and all the classic villains you can shake a batarang at. Written by Allan Heinberg, it’s not a musical and it’s not on ice (depending on whether Mr. Freeze shows up), but it dazzled Europe and Latin America last year and now hits North America in an arena tour that brings Gotham City to San Jose. Holy bats and circuses! Visit batmanlive.com.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Oct. 12–Nov. 24
When you think of the seventh president of the United States, you may think of the battle-bred, Injun-massacring populist of the early 1800s. Or, if you’re songwriter Michael Friedman and book writer/original director Alex Timbers, you may think of a badass rock star that would be great fodder for a free-cussing emo rock musical. And, oddly enough, they weren’t alone. Going from its 2008 premiere in L.A. to New York’s Public Theater in 2009, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” proved an unlikely hit that moved to Broadway the following year, where its momentum sort of fizzled. But the brash and funny musical featuring a blood-soaked and eyelinered president and plenty of Old Hickory dickery is now sweeping the Bay Area. San Jose Stage Company gave it its local debut back in June, and now a staging by Jon Tracy kicks off SF Playhouse’s new season at its spacious new digs, the former Post Street Theatre that most recently housed the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. Visit sfplayhouse.org.
San Francisco Theater Festival
Well, that’s certainly one way to get back into the thick of things: After several years in Yerba Buena Gardens, the San Francisco Theater Festival took place last year way out at Fort Mason, far from serendipitous foot traffic. This year the fest is on the move again...into the heart of the Tenderloin! The free daylong festival takes root this year on Ellis Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, promising both indoor and outdoor venues. I don’t know how they got the word out because we haven’t heard a peep from them this year, but the first-come, first-served lineup (still unannounced) boasts 350 performers sampling their wares simultaneously in 30-minute slots on different stages. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with all those companies and solo shows you’ve been curious about but haven’t seen yet. Visit sftheaterfestival.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Théâtre de la Ville performs “Rhinoceros” at Cal Performances.
Photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez
Sam’s Editor’s Picks September/October 2012 by / Sam HurwittPublished 2012-09-20
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