Editors’ Picks: August 2015
Monday, August 3, 2015
Posted by: Katharine Chin
Welcome to this month’s “TBA Editors’ Picks”! Joining TBA’s communications manager Laura Brueckner and listings editor Kim Cohan is guest editor Sal Mattos, who has recently come on board at TBA as members and events associate. (Learn more about Sal here!)
Editors’ Picks: Laura Brueckner, TBA communications manager
1 2 3
SF Playhouse at Tides Theatre, SF
There’s a special kind of magic in Lila Rose Kaplan’s writing. Her characters often surprise us by being kinder, braver and larger-souled than we tend to expect (especially given theatre’s investment in conflict) and her plots can dip and swerve into unexpected territory. This world premiere, directed by Lauren English, comes from SFPH’s Sandbox Series onto their main stage. An interesting combination of actors is set to play the sisters: Jessica Bates, whose previous credits include SFPH’s Sandbox Series reading of In a Word by Lauren Yee, as 1, the eldest sister; Tristan Cunningham (fresh from her role as a Golden-Age Spanish princess in Life is a Dream at Cal Shakes) bringing her background in clowning and circus arts to the dance-obsessed middle sister, 2; and youngest sister 3, played by Devin Shacket (who also has a clowning and circus background), making her SFPH debut. Lauren English directs. Visit What's Playing or sfplayhouse.org.
|Scene from God's Ear, directed by Erika Chong Shuch for Shotgun Players in 2010. Photo: Pak Han
Shotgun Players at the Ashby Stage
Aug. 20-Sep. 20
From a different corner of American Magical Realism comes Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. Spare and melancholic, this piece is almost musical in its precise tonal shifts and disciplined use of silence. Rising from the foundation of the Greek myth, Ruhl’s underworld is peopled with Eurydice’s father (James Carpenter), a “Nasty Interesting Man” (Nils Frykdahl), and a chorus of stones (Beth Wilmurt, Peter Griggs and Jeannine Anderson)—all of whom guide, cajole and trouble the titular heroine (Megan Trout). I’m especially excited about the play’s heightened visual environment; props designer Devon LaBelle—who recently raised blood design to new heights in Lauren Yee’s Hookman—and Christine Crook—whose unnervingly good, often dark and fantastical costume designs have also been seen at Cal Shakes, Marin Theatre Company and the Magic—are likely to find a lot of room to dazzle in this piece. Visit shotgunplayers.org.
Marin Shakespeare Company at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, San Rafael
Let’s go three-for-three in the genre of the fantastical. As the impractically romantic hero of one of the earliest novels ever written, Don Quixote has long been celebrated in famous paintings, ballets, symphonies, a series of haunting Doré engravings, at least one “puppet opera” and in GRE vocabulary tests (“quixotic” will also earn you a minimum of 28 points in Words with Friends). As the US premiere of a new adaptation of the novel at Marin Shakes, Don Quixote is a masked comedy (possibly with echoes of commedia dell’arte?), starring Ron Campbell—hopefully unscathed by his numerous comic pratfalls in One Man, Two Guvnors at Berkeley Rep—as the idealistic hidalgo. Visit What's Playing or marinshakespeare.org.
Editors’ Picks: Kim Cohan, TBA listings editor
Fish Songs Live at the Phoenix Theatre
Musicals about teens struggling with sexual freedom and coming of age? Seen ‘em. Musicals with rock, rap or folk music? Yup. Electronic musical about slut-shaming? Definitely new. Based on the short story “Philematophilia” by Traci Chee, Philia tells the story of Helena, blessed with magical kisses and looking for true love—and the slut-shaming she faces as a result. Quite a departure from your average “magical kisses” fairy tale! Wesley Newfarmer, Evangeline Crittenden and Nick Rattray introduced Philia at the SF Fringe Festival in 2013, and have spent the past two years adding more music, developing the characters and extending the piece into a full-length musical. Composer Rattray has continued further down the musical path of Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), Stew (Passing Strange) and many others by doing away with both a full orchestra or band, scoring the musical entirely with synthetic and electronic music. Visit What's Playing or philiasf.com.
|Evangeline Crittenden as the Witch in Philia. Photo: Wesley Newfarmer
Shakespeare in Hollywood
Silicon Valley Shakespeare at Sanborn County Park
Jul. 31-Aug. 30
Silicon Valley Shakespeare (renamed earlier this year after 16 years as “Shady Shakespeare”) finishes its 2015 season with Ken Ludwig’s fun, timeless (and time-confused) comedy Shakespeare in Hollywood. Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, awarded the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical in 2004; Shakespeare in Hollywood is a hilarious bridge between the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and 1930s Los Angeles, as Oberon and Puck are thrown into the crazy world of Hollywood. Based on the historical events behind the 1935 Warner Brothers production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ludwig draws both hysterical and ironically accurate parallels between the magical, mystical forest and glitzy, oblivious Hollywood. Visit What's Playing or svshakespeare.org.
Summer Improv Festival
While away—or more likely laugh-until-you-cry away—the summer at BATS’ Summer Improv Festival. Every weekend in August, BATS mounts a mélange of shows to entertain you, from an improvised play based on Tennessee Williams’ works to an “audience funded” spontaneous Broadway musical. I’m personally most interested to see their Theatre on the Edge show, two nights of longform improv utilizing ideas from Bertolt Brecht to craft unconventional (to say the least) musical theatre. Brecht’s theory of epic theatre—based in the belief that theatre should provoke critical thinking about political ideas and social injustice—should make for some interesting and unique improv! Visit What's Playing or improv.org.
Editors’ Picks: guest editor, Sal Mattos, TBA members and event associate
Breaking the Code
Theatre Rhinoceros at The Eureka Theatre, San Francisco
Most people probably learned who Alan Turing was after seeing Benedict Cumberbatch play him in the Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, but it was Hugh Whitemore’s 1986 play Breaking the Code that first turned Turing’s story into a script (boasting considerably more historical accuracy than the film). John Fisher directs and stars in Theatre Rhinoceros’ remount as the now-famous scientist whose codebreaking skills helped bring an early end to World War II, but whose sexual orientation landed him a criminal conviction for gross indecency, punished with “chemical castration” (regular injections of synthetic estrogen to reduce libido); he suffered an early demise. Over 60 years after his death—and only two years after he was pardoned by the Queen—Turing’s story still resonates, with its depiction of sexual discrimination, capital punishment, artificial intelligence, the ever-growing technologies of war...all topics that could be easily ripped from today’s headlines. What does that say about learning from history? Visit What's Playing or therhino.org.
|Heren Patel (reclining) as Nikos and John Fisher (kneeling) as Turing in Breaking the Code
by Hugh Whitemore, a Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre.
Photo: David Wilson
Salome, Dance For Me
New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco
A glam-rock solo musical based on the writings of Oscar Wilde? I’m sold. Faux queen (that’s a biologically female drag queen, if you’re wondering) trixxie carr developed this adaptation of Salome as part of NCTC’s Emerging Artists program, alongside frequent collaborator and local director Ben Randle. Together they’ve set the story of the Bible’s most seductive dancer and her infatuation with John the Baptist (banned when Wilde first wrote it) to rock and roll. With a traditional Salome headed to London’s West End in 2016, it seems only right to do it as untraditionally as possible first, here in SF. Visit What's Playing or nctcsf.org.
Eat the Runt
Altarena Playhouse, Alameda
Aug. 14-Sep. 13
There’s much lofty debate in theatrical circles about nontraditional casting and its effect on storytelling. Eat the Runt, playing at Altarena Playhouse under the direction of Tim Beagley, takes that conversation, cuts the loft, and makes it the star of the show. Every night, the audience gets to cast Runt’s eight full-sized roles from a pool of 10 actors, each of whom has memorized each role. This job-interview comedy, set in a museum, is so cleverly written that no one can be miscast by way of the script. Instead, it fully embraces the multitude of possibilities a diverse cast can offer. Visit What's Playing or altarena.org.