Editors' Picks: February 2016
Monday, February 01, 2016
Abundance in bloom! This February, exciting theatre productions are as plentiful as the little cherry blossoms that now dust the trees downtown like pink snowflakes. Freshness and energy characterizes this crowd of ambitious and unique productions: are you looking for a jaw-dropping, take-no-prisoners satire? Of course you are! Yearning for romance? Who isn’t?! Feeling like singing and dancing? You’re covered! Read on for a host of ways to spend your evenings enjoying the Bay Area’s creative bounty.
We’re delighted to welcome Sherri Young as our guest editor this month. Ms. Young is the founder and executive director of the African-American Shakespeare Company, a valued TBA member company—and producer of one of this month’s top Editors’ Picks, The Colored Museum! (Bonus: last February, the National Endowment for the Arts published a wonderful “Art Talk” interview with Ms. Young; read it here.)
|Paige Mayes, Clara McDaniel and Tavia Percia in “The Hairpiece,” one of 11 vignettes in George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum at the African-American Shakespeare Company. Photo: Lance Huntley
The Colored Museum
African-American Shakespeare Company, SF
Feb. 13-Mar. 6
Lurking within the 11,000+ pages of theatre history, theory and scripts I read for my first-year PhD exam was one piece that knocked me sideways, and has been on my “must see” bucket list ever since: George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum. This ferocious, agile, intense work wastes no time in upending assumptions; by the time we’re done even reading its title, it’s forced us to confront language for racial difference that shines a light on America’s ongoing problem of racial intolerance—and then used that language to ridicule the notion that historically white institutions such as museums display only objective truth. And that’s just the title! The play digs much deeper, in many different ways, as Wolfe (according to Stanford professor Harry J. Elam, Jr.) “simultaneously celebrates, satirizes and subverts the African-American legacy.” This production divides the play’s 11 vignettes between four well-known Bay Area directors: Velina Brown, L. Peter Callender, Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe and Michael Gene Sullivan. Visit What’s Playing or african-americanshakes.org.
Magic Theatre, SF
The first incarnation of Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters was a novel, published in 1990, winning the American Book Award and becoming a finalist for the National Book Award. On the urging of collaborators, Hagedorn adapted her bitingly satiric story of political oppression, social injustice, glamour and despair in Marcos-era Manila into a play that appears to embrace excess as both content and style. With 16 actors (!) playing over 30 characters, simply seeing how this production will work is reason enough to go; top-notch actors such as Rinabeth Apostol, Charisse Loriaux, Lawrence Radecker, Carina Lastimosa Salazar, Jomar Tagatac and Ogie Zulueta seal the deal. Visit magictheatre.org.
Valley of the Heart
San Jose Stage Company, San Jose
Feb. 10-Mar. 6
A new work written and directed by Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit) is not a thing to miss, especially when the topic is California history and the struggles of immigrant families—both Mexican American and Japanese American—during World War II. I’m not sure what to make of a production that calls itself a world premiere while citing Los Angeles Times fanfare about the 2013, um, world premiere. But San Jose Stage, in partnership with Valdez’ historic El Teatro Campesino, is still doing something quite special by bringing this memory play, by a master playwright and putative father of Chicano theatre, to new audiences. Visit What’s Playing or thestage.org.
|Kjerstine Anderson and Ian Merrigan in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival world premiere production of The Unfortunates. Photo: Jenny Graham
American Conservatory Theater at the Strand, SF
Feb. 3-Apr. 10
Hip-hop- and blues-based musicals are fast becoming an established part of the musical-theatre repertoire, and ACT’s upcoming The Unfortunates is another exciting new one! The musical had its world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2013, and received a wonderful response. Created by the 3 Blind Mice (a hip-hop a capella group of Jon Beavers, Ian Merrigan and Ramiz Monsef) with Shana Cooper and Casey Hurt over three years, the musical has all of the elements of good theatre combined with absolutely gorgeous music. The production takes place almost entirely in a dream world imagined by the central character, Big Joe—a world filled with surreal images and characters. The music combines early 20th century American blues and gospel with modern sounds, rhythms and syncopations to great effect, reminding us of the power of song in the face of loss and death in a darkly imaginative tale. Visit What’s Playing or act-sf.org.
Tinderella, The Modern Musical
FaultLine Theater at PianoFight, SF
Jan. 28-Feb. 27
Everyone knows the fairytale of Cinderella, and most people (in the Bay Area, at least) know what Tinder is. FaultLine Theater’s new musical takes the courageous—and slightly crazy—step of combining the two! Tinderella takes the audience along as Meg looks for love through Tinder, with the help from her fairy god-roommate, and finds her maybe-Prince Charming by swiping right! An original musical with book by Rose Oser, music by Christian B. Schmidt and lyrics by Weston Scott, FaultLine produced a workshop production in August 2015 and received an enthusiastic response, leading to this full-scale production. Visit What’s Playing or faultlinetheater.com.
Spreckels Performing Arts Center, Rohnert Park
Up north at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, audiences should check out the concert version of the classic musical, Kismet. A 1001 Nights-style fairytale, the musical follows Hajj, the scheming poet, as he gets mixed up in crazy adventures that threaten his daughters’ chances at romance. A rarely performed musical these days, the show was quite popular with audiences when it opened in 1953, and it’s exciting to see it being performed again! The production will be fully staged and costumed, and accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra on stage. Visit What’s Playing or spreckelsonline.com.
|Amanda King, who will appear in Cheryl L. Davis and Douglas J. Cohen's Bridges: A New Musical at Berkeley Playhouse. Photo: Lois Tema
Bridges: A New Musical
Berkeley Playhouse, Berkeley
Feb. 11-Mar. 6
As we enter Black History Month, I wanted to recommend a new musical. I love the singing—I don’t know if there is dancing, but one only hopes! Bridges is a world premiere by Cheryl L. Davis, presented by Berkeley Playhouse, in which social strife, social unrest, and social-everything-else is centered around—wait for it—being not just multiracial, but also cross-generational. The story cleverly takes place in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and then falls in 2008 in Oakland, California. Can’t wait to see the development—and hopefully pick up a new tune to hum that will ultimately annoy my office staff. Visit What’s Playing or berkeleyplayhouse.org.
The Little Shop of Horrors
Pacifica Spindrift Players, Pacifica
Feb. 12-Mar. 6
Speaking of musicals, I cannot say how much I love to see a modern-day old classic (if there is such a thing). It seems like just yesterday when the plant Audrey II came to life to take over the world! If you love sci-fi, quirky characters and great musical numbers, then this is your show, told in an inventive fashion with a trio of singers a la Greek chorus fashion. I can hear the overture now. (And the song starts in 1, 2, 3 - ) “Little Shop, Little Shop of Horrors...” (People, sing with me!) Visit What’s Playing or pacificaspindriftplayers.org.
Swipe Right: An Improvised Online Romance
Un-Scripted Theater Company, SF
But we could not ignore the “amore” for the month of February. Swipe Right: An Improvised Online Romance, presented by the Un-Scripted Theater Company, is an improvised show that deals with the craziness of online dating and the search for love; think of a rom-com mixed with your favorite dating app. Don’t have a love life? You can control the love life of the actors on stage, as you get to decide and vote on the action of your favorite characters. Do something unique for a loved one, or gather your friends to have a romantically wonderful time. Visit What’s Playing or un-scripted.com.