Editors' Picks, May/June 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
Heathers: The Musical
Ray of Light Theatre
May 22–Jun. 13
That’s right, just like pretty much every other cult classic movie, someone decided to make a stage musical of Heathers. In fact, Heathers: The Musical was made by two people with a pretty good track record of doing exactly that: Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde) and Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness). After a hit off-Broadway run just last year, the candy-colored ’80s retro musical of the original high school mean girls comes to San Francisco courtesy of those connoisseurs of perverse musical theatre, Ray of Light Theatre. After a 2014 season of musicals entirely about pre-human species (dinosaurs in Triassic Parq and salt-sucking yeasts in Yeast Nation), Ray of Light kicks off its 15th season with Heathers as a late-breaking but totally awesome replacement for Jesus Christ Superstar. Visit rayoflighttheatre.com.
Playwright Luis Alfaro.
Sam’s Other Picks
This Golden State Part One: Delano
May 20–Jun. 14
Luis Alfaro, whose Glickman Award–winning Oedipus el Rey and Medea update Bruja enchanted Magic Theatre in recent years, is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation playwright in residence at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. OSF and the Magic have teamed up to commission a new trilogy from Alfaro. This Golden State is the name of the trilogy, and part one, Delano, now premieres at the Magic, staged by producing artistic director Loretta Greco. Each play explores a different “great American theme”—religion, politics, identity—through the lens of an extended Latino family in the American West. Visit magictheatre.org.
Marin Theatre Company
The Bay Area was treated to a dazzling introduction to playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s work in 2010 when Marin Theatre Company, Magic Theatre and American Conservatory Theater teamed up to present his dreamy, lyrical trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays. Now a MacArthur “Genius” grantee, McCraney’s back with a one-two punch of otherwise unconnected plays: Head of Passes at Berkeley Rep (through May 24) and Choir Boy back where he made his local debut at Marin. Full of a cappella gospel music, Choir Boy is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale about a young man confronting homophobia and nepotism in the prestigious choir of a present-day all-male prep school. Visit marintheatre.org.
Aurora Theatre Company
Jun. 19–Jul. 19
Bay Areans with long memories may recall Crowded Fire Theater’s sublime 2006 production of Anna Bella Eema, Lisa D’Amour’s haunting three-woman play about a trailer park golem girl. Well, now D’Amour’s back with a very different but similarly unsettling play, this one an eerie portrait of suburban life right outside a midsize American city. Although title of this Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie Award winner is Detroit, the play’s not necessarily set there. It’s set in the yards of two couples living next door to each other. The newcomers are fresh out of rehab and flat broke, while their welcoming next-door neighbors are struggling because the husband lost his job and is dithering about launching his own home business. But there’s something raw and broken about both couples that keeps bleeding through the jovial pleasantries of people trying to connect in a neighborhood where nobody knows anybody anymore. Visit auroratheatre.org.
Handspring Puppet Company's Ubu and the Truth Commission. Photo: Courtesy of Cal Performances
Ubu and the Truth Commission
Jane Taylor’s Ubu and the Truth Commission weaves together two stories of power and its abuse: the misadventures of Alfred Jarry’s greedy, brutal antihero, Père Ubu, and victims’ accounts of the violence and injustice of apartheid in South Africa as reported to the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Orwellian-sounding body was actually a post-apartheid attempt to heal the country’s wounds, giving victims a public forum to tell their harrowing stories (30 minutes was the allotted time), while professional comforters stood by. But the TRC’s goal of reconciliation meant that perpetrators could testify too, and request amnesty if they made a full confession of their crimes—or, some critics claim, told just enough to win freedom. Under William Kentridge’s direction, Ubu and the Truth Commission premiered in South Africa in 1997, the year after the TRC commenced hearings. This remount, also directed by Kentridge, includes puppets by Handspring Puppet Company (War Horse) plus music and video. Visit calperformances.org.
Laura’s Other Picks
The Cutting Ball Theater
May 14–Jun. 7
Time keeps on slipping into the future in this dark drama by Andrew Saito, in which former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld comes face-to-face with 16-year-old Frederick Douglass, by virtue of unusually fragile temporal boundaries on a particular piece of land in Maryland. For Douglass, Mount Misery was a plantation run by Edward Covey, notorious for “breaking” troublesome slaves through physical and psychological torture. For Rumsfeld, acquitted only in December 2014 of war crimes including torture and inhumanly degrading treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it was the site of a vacation home. Their encounter is disturbing, sometimes oddly moving, and epic. Visit cuttingball.com.
San Francisco International Arts Festival
Fort Mason Center
May 21–Jun. 7
It’s a good year for theatre at SFIAF. In addition to the usual music and dance performances, SFIAF 2015 will present 12 theatre pieces, including a wealth of local work: Theatre of Yugen’s dystopian riff on Japanese tales, The Genji State; Classic Black, with Ellen Sebastian Chang directing former SF poet laureate devorah major; Primal Behavior from Bay Area veteran Bob Ernst; Eth-Noh-Tec’s multimedia storytelling excursion Red Altar; Femme Fatale by Bay Area transplants Carte Blanche; Inferno Theatre’s explorations of Quantum Love; Right Brain Performancelab’s dance/clown encounter with a mysterious Elephant in the Room; and Amnesia by Ariel Luckey, whose all-star team includes musician Dan Cantrell. Visit sfiaf.org.
Tourettes Without Regrets
Oakland Metro Operahouse
On the first Thursday of every month, the Oakland Metro Operahouse fills to (beyond) capacity with audience members dying to see what’s going to happen at Tourettes Without Regrets. TWR, which bills itself as “The Fight Club of Underground Art,” has presented poetry slams, live music, short films, burlesque numbers, stand-up comics, circus acts, Nerf darts, spanking contests, freestyle insult performance and something called “Dildo Football” (the mind reels). It all springs from the whimsy of AD/MC Jamie DeWolf, himself a legit slam poet with numerous championships—not to mention HBO and NPR appearances—under his belt. Visit oaklandmetro.com, and bug them to update their calendar.
Heart of Darkness composer Tarik O'Regan. Photo: Peter Greig
Heart of Darkness
Opera Parallèle at Z Space
Based on the novella by Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness unfolds in brief snapshots, taking the audience into the greedy world of ivory smugglers in central Africa. The opera skips and jumps through time, steadily increasing in tension as the main character, Marlow, relives a much earlier expedition to Africa. While O’Regan and Phillips’s music leans more toward a modern, abstract sound, Opera Parallèle conductor Nicole Paiement is brilliant at interpreting such music for unfamiliar ears. Known for its cutting-edge technology, Opera Parallèle creates a Heart of Darkness that’s unique in its unified aesthetic, centered around Matt Kish’s artistic style. Audiences can literally become immersed in the opera; several rows of onstage seats are available. People seated in the areas on either side of the stage will be draped in white garments and will become a human projection screen for the production’s imagery. It’s not just an opera, but an art piece! Visit operaparallele.org.
Kimberley’s Other Picks
Timon! The Musical!
Theatre Rhinoceros & Yerba Buena Arts and Events
Playwright and director John Fisher will be concluding Theatre Rhinoceros’s 2014–15 season with an outdoor, musical and battle-enhanced interpretation of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Timon has been viewed as one of the lesser plays in Shakespeare’s canon, making it perfect for this kind of crazy, loose reinvention. The play follows Timon, a patron of the arts in Athens who gives all of his riches to his friends, until they betray him and he ends up alone. Fisher’s version will draw parallels between the play and the difficulties of arts patronage today, combined with his usual comic shtick and shenanigans. Visit therhino.org.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty
New Conservatory Theatre Center
May 15–Jun. 14
The battle of the sexes! NCTC’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s psychosexual historical comedy is a timely reminder of the first women onstage, as the Bay Area takes a closer look at gender parity in theatre and the unique challenges which women still face today. It is 1661, and London’s most famous leading lady is a man named Edward Kynaston, until an unknown woman named Margaret Hughes illegally takes the stage. Although many liberties and comedic exaggerations are taken, Hatcher’s story is based upon the historical facts of King Charles II’s decision to allow women onstage, and the fallout that followed. Visit nctcsf.org.
Tabard Theatre Company
Thru May 3
Written by Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori and based on the novel The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts, Violet was originally produced off-Broadway in 1997 and disappeared into the mire of commercially unsuccessful musicals. The musical was stripped down and fixed up last summer, and is now being hailed as a commercial and critical success on Broadway. An emotional, compelling narrative of a woman struggling with shame, self-delusion and the fear that a deformity will keep her on the sidelines of life, it is a story that anyone who has felt the terror of being different will relate to and enjoy. Visit tabardtheatre.org.
About the editors:
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.
Laura Brueckner is digital content manager for Theatre Bay Area, and the author of TBA's "Bread and Circuits," a column on intersections of theatre and technology. She is also resident dramaturg at Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco and holds a PhD in dramaturgy.
Kimberley Cohan is listings editor for Theatre Bay Area. She holds a bachelor's degree in vocal music.