Editors' Picks: June 2016
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
This month, all’s fair in love and theatre! TBA editor Laura Brueckner, listings editor Kim Cohan and membership and programs coordinator James Nelson weigh in on what they’re looking forward to in June—and the results are all over the map! So buckle up, sit back and check out the richly varied offerings at SF Playhouse, Marin Shakespeare Company, foolsFury, Shotgun Players, Exit Theatre, Broadway by the Bay, Marin Theatre Company, AlterTheater and Play Cafe.
Special thanks to guest editor James Nelson this month—after spending the last couple of years at TBA, he’s heading off to the Indiana University MFA directing program. You still have the chance to catch some of his work before he leaves the Bay Area, though! This August, he will direct Barry Eitel’s The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident for FaultLine Theater in San Francisco. Thanks, James!
| Playwright Dipika Guha.
San Francisco Playhouse at Children’s Creativity Museum Theater, SF
Jun. 22-Jul. 16
When Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel gives someone a public shout-out as “an incredible, nuanced playwright” and “smart, political, theatrical and deeply, fiercely emotional,” you check out their work. Luckily, we don’t have to fly to New York to catch the latest by the playwright in question, Dipika Guha. Currently under commission from OSF as part of its Play On! program and set to workshop another new play at Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor this summer, Guha will premiere The Rules as part of SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series. Her play, billed as “a fable about love and blindness and the promise of happy endings” (and inspired in part by one of the most fascinatingly terrifying books ever written), explores the trials faced by three longtime friends who fall in love with the same man. Directed by Susannah Martin, whose last production with SF Playhouse—George Brant’s Grounded—was a stunner. Visit What’s Playing or sfplayhouse.org.
Marin Shakespeare Company, San Rafael
Jun. 24-Jul. 17
A slam-dunk theatregoing choice as we approach Independence Day in an election year, Lauren Gunderson’s brisk comedy The Taming launches three women with wildly different agendas on missions to save the country, first from—and then with—one another. Beauty queen Katherine, social media activist/blogger Bianca and Republican aide Patricia clash clangorously, allowing audiences sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Toss in some Enlightenment-era optimism about the effectiveness of, you know, true debate and a fever dream-esque sequence involving Founding Father drag and you’ve got your summer’s guilty-pleasure entertainment, minus the guilt. Visit What’s Playing or marinshakespeare.org.
Fury Factory Festival of Ensemble and Devised Theater
FoolsFury at Z Below, NohSpace and Joe Goode Annex, SF
As neat as it would be if all three of my June choices happened to be shows involving three women, SF-based foolsFury’s Fury Factory 2016 gets the third highlight spot this month. Those who like their theatre to deliver startlingly new experiences and occasional frissons of disorientation will find plenty to thrill them this year; the festival features eight “Main Stage Acts” ranging from dance theatre with original music to pep talks to 19th-century Japanese ghost stories to the circus raging inside the head of Samuel Beckett. Stretch out the legs of your mind and go for a walk somewhere new! Visit What’s Playing or foolsfury.org.
| Elissa Stebbins and Kevin Clarke in Shotgun Players’ production of The Village Bike. Photo: Pak Han
The Village Bike
Shotgun Players, Berkeley
Jun. 2-Jul. 3 (In repertory: Jul. 29-Jan. 21)
Shotgun Players’ 25th anniversary season continues with The Village Bike, a fresh and controversial play that tackles standard expectations of women’s sexuality by inverting the usual stereotype of men always wanting sex and women making up reasons to wait. Playwright Penelope Skinner introduces audiences to young married couple John and Becky, who, at first glance, seem to be living the perfect life: country home, successful jobs and expecting a baby—but the play quickly dives into steamy and unexpected waters filled with everything from fiery intimacy to parental anxiety to pornography. I am always a fan of plays that incite an absolute need to discuss and debate as soon as you walk out the theatre doors, and this play fits the bill perfectly! The Village Bike will join the rest of Shotgun’s season in repertory, allowing audiences and actors alike to create a yearlong connection with their plays. Visit What’s Playing or shotgunplayers.org.
Confessions of a Catholic Child
Jun. 18-Jul. 9
Feel like being taken on a quirky, crazy ride to death’s door? Join Regina Fredrickson in this smartmouthed, darkly comic play as she seeks to find out: “what’s it all about?” Written by Elizabeth Appell, and previously produced by the Virtual Theatre Project in Los Angeles, Confessions of a Catholic Child was brought to life by a combination of Appell’s obsession with death and her childhood anger and disillusionment with the Catholic Church. Exit Theatre’s production is directed by Ariel Craft, and stars Exit artistic director Christina Augello as Regina. And if you’re feeling a little confused—but a lot excited to see this “confession”—you are not alone! Visit What’s Playing or theexit.org.
Broadway by the Bay
I don’t think that you can grow up in America without having heard the oh-so-recognizable strains of “Ooooooooooooooooooooklahoma!” (at least if you were a musicals-obsessed kid like me). Not only is the tune insanely memorable, but as the first-ever Rodgers & Hammerstein collaboration and as the musical that set the structure and standards for all classic American musicals to follow, Oklahoma! is justly cherished. It was the very first classic musical produced by Broadway by the Bay back in 1966 when it was still San Mateo Community Theatre. Headed by director Joshua Marx and resident musical director Sean Kana, the company aims to reexamine and bring fresh heart to this classic tale, including incorporating an acoustic flavor into the orchestrations. Visit What’s Playing or broadwaybythebay.org.
Editors’ Picks: guest editor James Nelson, TBA membership and programs coordinator, freelance director
|Liz Sklar and Brian Herndon in Marin Theatre Company’s 2014 production of Failure: A Love Story.
Photo: Kevin Berne
The Invisible Hand
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
You had me at “Marin Theatre Company”—ever since being emotionally devastated by Failure: A Love Story (I was crying for about three days afterward), they’ve been my top Bay Area theatre. MTC, and director Jasson Minadakis in particular, have a knack for fully realizing the world of a play while staying disciplined enough to avoid the distractions of theatrical excess. For the Bay Area premiere of The Invisible Hand, MTC has received not one but two completely new drafts of the script from playwright Ayad Akhtar (whose Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced received a jaw-dropping production last season at Berkeley Rep), so this iteration will be notably different than previous productions. The story, which centers on an American banker who has been kidnapped by an Islamist militant group, looks to be timely, thrilling and provocative. Visit What’s Playing or marintheatre.org.
Rose in America
AlterTheater Ensemble, various locations
Jun. 2-Jul. 3
The deep level of investment that AlterTheater puts into their world premieres is really impressive. This piece from Michelle Carter was commissioned for the company’s playwright residency program, AlterLab, which also brought us Marisela Treviño Orta’s The River Bride (currently running at Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Rose in America was written specifically for AlterTheater’s diverse ensemble of actors, and was thoroughly developed and workshopped by the company over the last year. The play, described by AT as “a quasi-realistic, semi-serious comedy,” takes a look at activism across generational and intra-racial divides. Rose in America will open at American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop and later move to a San Rafael storefront location. Visit What’s Playing or altertheater.org.
Musical Cafe 2016 Spring Showcase
Play Cafe at the Flight Deck, Oakland
So you’re finally tired of listening to your Hamilton OBCR on repeat and you’re hankering for some new musicals? Musical Cafe, a program of new works company Play Cafe, is presenting four 20-minute excerpts from in-development musical theatre pieces created by local writers and composers (Alan Coyne, Miranda Ferris Jones, Michael John Boynton, Brian Allan Hobbs and Jeffrey Scharf). With subject matter ranging from Trojan women to unified field theory, there should be something for everyone in this eclectic batch of musicals. The showcase will have two performances at the Flight Deck in Oakland. Visit What’s Playing or musicalcafe.org.