Editors' Picks: December 2015
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Ho-ho-holidays! The chill in the air, the lights on the trees and the blessed reappearance of Eggnog Lattes tells us that the end (of the year) is near. Whether all this seasonal cheer turns you into a Santa or a Scrooge, you’ll find something to love in this month’s Editors’ Picks—from flashy, 30-second plays by award-winning writers to an adaptation of a beloved children’s book to a symphonic rendering of Charlie Brown. Go forth, see theatre and be merry!
Our guest editor for December is Nina Meehan, artistic director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre—a TBA member company and valued member of our Theatre Services Committee. Check out BACT’s productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, open through Dec. 20 in the East Bay, and Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal, opening Dec. 5 at the Children’s Creativity Museum Theater in SF.
|Playwrights Foundation's FlashPlays event, 2014. Photo: Jim Norrena
Editors’ Picks: Laura Brueckner, TBA editor
Playwrights Foundation at Brava Theater Center, SF
Pinch me, this must be a dream! For two nights only, lucky audiences can enjoy a real holiday treat—seeing more than 40 Bay Area playwrights strut their stuff—at FlashPlays, a benefit for Playwrights Foundation. The plays, all directed by a pool of 10 directors, range between 30 seconds to two minutes in length. This rapid-fire approach accomplishes several delightful things simultaneously: it allows attendees to check out the work of dozens of phenomenal writers at one sitting, it allows the writers to flex their storytelling muscles in a playful (and deceptively challenging) format and it gathers dozens of theatre-makers who rarely get to work together—like, say, playwrights—in one place to share some holiday cheer. Participating writers include Christopher Chen, Dipika Guha, Lauren Gunderson, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Andrew Saito, Michael Gene Sullivan and Arisa White. Go for the smorgasbord of talent, stay for the feels. Visit playwrightsfoundation.org.
Gritty City Repertory Youth Theatre at Flight Deck, Oakland
In a totally different take on “the feels,” Gritty City offers audiences a documentary theatre piece, based on interviews with Marines and their families, that portrays several soldiers and their complex relationships to both the appeal and dangers of military life. Devoted to providing Oakland’s youth a space to develop their creativity, compassion and leadership skills through challenging and relevant theatre (ReEntry is challenging enough that the company issues an “adult language and themes” PSA on its site), Gritty City’s ensemble of young actors brings a physical-theatre slant to a script that has been produced at Actors’ Theatre of Louisville and Baltimore’s Center Stage as well as numerous military conferences. Visit What’s Playing or grittycityrep.org.
Dead Dog’s Bone
FaultLine Theater at PianoFight, SF
They had me at “surreal dark comedy for the holidays.” FaultLine Theater, the threeish-year-old company that landed a fabulous 18 Finalist nods at the recent TBA Awards, opens fire on December with a play filled with laughs but also loss, mortality and regret for all the missed opportunities of one’s life. One reviewer of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe production said of playwright Veronica Tijoe’s work: “there is no cure for lost time. For anyone still dwelling on those wasted moments, this play is for you; for anyone unable to commit to your lover, this play is for you; and for anyone looking for a new place to call home in that oh so familiar state of loss and befuddlement, this play is for you.” Visit What’s Playing or faultlinetheater.com.
|Elissa Beth Stebbins in Marin Theatre Company's production of The Little Prince. Photo: Michael V. Dyett
Editors’ Picks: Kim Cohan, TBA listings editor
The Little Prince
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
“The Little Prince” was one of my and my mom’s favorite books to read together when I was a kid, so I am excited to see the book brought to the stage in this awesome adaptation. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original Le Petit Prince is one of the best-known children’s stories around the world, and one of the best-selling books ever published. The story takes the reader on a journey with a young prince, fallen from an asteroid to Earth, and the stranded pilot he meets there. The pilot (who is also the narrator) is never seen in the illustrations in the book, so it will be interesting to see how this production—adapted for the stage by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar—stages the interplay between the prince and the pilot. The company will also turn the lobby of the theatre into an “immersive inter-planetary experience for children and families to explore before the show.” Visit What’s Playing or marintheatre.org.
The Behavior of Broadus
Capital Stage, Sacramento
Dec. 9-Jan. 3
One year after its crazy—and crazily critically successful—run in Los Angeles, The Behavior of Broadus comes to Sacramento, aiming to delight and confuse audiences for the holidays. Nominated for seven L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards and nine Ovation Awards, this almost-not-quite-but-kind-of-true story of John Broadus Watson, the father of Behaviorism and modern advertising, is a darkly comic musical that takes a close look today’s consumerist, pop-culture obsessed society. Written by the Burglars of Hamm, a four-person writing and performing collective, this piece has witty songs and a surprising number of true facts—and it might end up controlling your brain! Visit What’s Playing or capstage.org.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Bay Area Musicals! at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco
Nov. 28-Dec. 19
In my ever-so-humble opinion, there is no such thing as too many musicals…which is why I am excited to see a new musical theatre company pop up in San Francisco. Bay Area Musicals! (BAM!) is launching their inaugural season with the classic big business satire How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Although this award-winning musical is somewhat dated (most obviously through the unavoidable sexism built into the book and musical numbers), it contains some of the smartest music Loesser ever wrote. As a new Bay Area theatre company, BAM! has many more plans in the works, and I’m looking forward to seeing them develop and grow. Visit What’s Playing or bamsf.org.
|Singer and actress Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid, joins the SF Symphony this month for A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! Photo: "Jodi Benson - World of Color Premiere - Disney California Adventure Park" by Josh Hallett on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.
Editors' Picks: guest editor, Nina Meehan, artistic director of Bay Area Children's Theatre
A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live!
San Francisco Symphony
This holiday classic combines the impressive San Francisco Symphony with dancers, narration, singing and projection to bring to life America’s favorite blockhead and his friends. The first half of the show is a concert of holiday songs, including a sing-a-long. After intermission, the familiar sounds of the jazz-influenced “Charlie Brown” score will fill Davies Symphony Hall while dancers take the stage in a movement-based telling of Charlie’s Brown’s struggle to find the meaning of Christmas. I took my six-year-old last holiday season, and we had a wonderful time—it definitely helps the youngsters in the audience if they’re seen the movie before. This year’s concert, with Randall Craig Fleischer conducting, will feature vocalist Jodi Benson (the original voice of Ariel from Disney’s Little Mermaid). And the decorations at Davies are an added bonus. Visit sfsymphony.org.
TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto
Dec. 2-Jan. 2
This reprise of the popular TheatreWorks hit from 2007 is a perfect holiday musical for families with older children; it has romance, quite a bit of humor, gorgeous costumes and a glorious score. For those unfamiliar with Emma, the heroine is beautiful, intelligent and obsessed with romance. Unfortunately, her knowledge of the heart and matchmaking does not extend to herself—but of course, in the end, wedding bells ring! The music, lyrics and book are by Paul Gordon, the Tony Award-nominated composer of Jane Eyre and Daddy Long Legs. Visit What's Playing or theatreworks.org.
African-American Shakespeare Company, San Francisco
The African-American Shakespeare Company has been producing its original adaptation of Cinderella for 12 years, making this show a true Bay Area holiday tradition. This production is a retelling of the classic “princess” story, but with a modern twist on its message: Cinderella must believe in herself before her dreams can come true. It also throws in a hint of the holiday Panto tradition in the form of the entertaining comic stepsisters. And after the show, parents can bring their children to take photos with the Royal Couple. Visit african-americanshakes.org.