Editors' Picks: August 2016
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
This month’s Editors’ Picks reflect some of the rich theatrical joys of the summer season: two festivals, dance, comedy and lots and lots of music. We hope you enjoy them all!
Joining us this month is guest editor Colin Blattel, the managing director of Ubuntu Theater Project, a young, deeply committed company that is making waves all over the Bay Area. Colin also serves on Theatre Bay Area’s Theatre Services Committee, an advisory group that offers guidance to TBA on issues concerning Bay Area theatre companies. New to Ubuntu? You can read more about this Oakland-based ensemble in this Company Spotlight piece!
|The cast for the 2015 TheatreWorks New Works Festival reading of The Man in the Ceiling, a new musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) and book by Pulitzer Prize winner Jules Feiffer (The Phantom Tollbooth).
2016 New Works Festival
TheatreWorks, Palo Alto
As a new-work dramaturg, I’m always excited about companies that develop and present plays that are still growing, breathing and taking shape. Events like TheatreWorks’s New Works Festival win two ways—audiences get insider access to skilled playwrights’ freshest work at wholly reasonable prices, and writers benefit from audiences’ reactions to characters and moments that may be still up for exploration and evolution. TheatreWorks’ festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary, and this year’s roster features brand-new shows from award-winning artists who’ve already given us a lot to love, including Archduke, a political drama from Rajiv Joseph (who also gives the festival’s keynote on Aug. 12); Dipika Guha’s meditation on love and lust, I Enter the Valley and Min Kahng’s “American manga musical,” The Four Immigrants. There’s also a musical about physics and an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s astonishing novel Something Wicked This Way Comes—I’m so there. Visit theatreworks.org.
Romeo and Juliet
We Players, Petaluma
Aug. 12-Sep. 25
Late summer feels like the exact right time for an outdoor production of this tale of star-crossed lovers. Dazzling days and sultry nights encourage passionate abandon—but the light has begun to die earlier and earlier, hinting at the inexorable approach of darkness and winter’s reckoning. WP artistic director Ava Roy directs this production at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park; in October, it will run at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. Complementing the work of the actors, designers and choreographers will be an original music score composed by Charlie Gurke and performed live by five musicians. Visit weplayers.org.
Post:Ballet and The Living Earth Show at Z Space, SF
It can be wonderfully energizing to step outside the bounds of what one considers “theatre” and drink in something new. This month, that new thing should be Do Be, a long-arc collaboration between the acclaimed modern ballet dancers of SF’s Post:Ballet and SF-based music duo The Living Earth Show, who perform works by five composers written expressly for this production. Wonders abound; alongside lights and costumes, the Do Be team also includes a person responsible for “culinary design.” Described by the artists as “our grandest offering to the city we call home,” Do Be may offer you your next two favorite performing groups as well. Visit zspace.org.
|The Broadway cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Photo: Joan Marcus
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Aug. 9-Sep. 18
I grew up listening to (and singing along with) my mom’s Carole King records, so when I heard that a musical was being written about her music and life, I was both excited and apprehensive. Jukebox musicals have never been my particular cup of tea, as they so often focus so intensely on including the artist’s best and most popular songs that a fully fleshed-out plot—with songs that push the story forward instead of simply enhancing it—is often lost. Luckily, the Beautiful team recognized the particular power of letting us into the lives of four amazing, complicated, interesting songwriters, instead of focusing entirely on the later fame of Carole King. This national tour also will mark the first time the musical returns to San Francisco after its sold-out pre-Broadway run at the Curran Theatre in 2013. Visit What’s Playing or shnsf.com.
Real Women Have Curves
Douglas Morrisson Theatre, Hayward
Aug. 25-Sep. 18
While body positivity is experiencing an upswing in popularity in mainstream culture, the stories of five curvaceous Latina women working in a sewing factory in East Los Angeles still ring as true as they did when first written in 1990. Real Women Have Curves was first produced as a stage play by El Teatro de la Esperanza at the Mission Cultural Center in 1990, then adapted into the 2002 movie of the same name. Playwright Josefina López, herself an undocumented immigrant for years before becoming a US citizen, knows how to write characters that speak to the heart and portray struggles that are still vitally relevant today. Visit What’s Playing or dmtonline.org.
Collective Acts: A Black Arts Festival
Lower Bottom Playaz
Aug. 25-Sep. 4
Closing out a summer chock-full of festivals comes this excellent and timely new Oakland festival featuring an assortment of works ranging from classical black theatre to world premieres. Lower Bottom Playaz was a 2016 CA$H grant recipient, receiving organizational development support for this multiday festival of Black Arts Movement pieces. All works were chosen and directed by LBP artistic director Ayodele Nzinga, who also was an honoree at the recent 40@40 Faces of Theatre Bay Area Celebration. Collective Acts: A Black Arts Festival will include nine works of different genres, including one-woman shows, multidisciplinary shorts and more. Visit What’s Playing or lowerbottomplayaz.com.
|Kathleen Wattis Kettrey and Stacy Melich in Actor's Express' 2015 production of
The Thrush and the Woodpecker. Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
The Thrush and the Woodpecker
Custom Made Theatre Co., SF
Steve Yockey’s powerful and chilling play of love and betrayal makes its final stop on its rolling world premiere with the National New Play Network. It was first performed at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, then Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, and now finally here at San Francisco’s beloved Custom Made Theater Co. This play is described as an intense piece of theatre that keeps you guessing until the very end, which will play beautifully in Custom Made’s intimate playing space. The play centers on a mother, Brenda, repairing a fractured relationship with her son, Noah, who has abruptly returned home from college following an act of vandalism. A mysterious visitor comes to their remote home bearing dangerous secrets from Brenda’s past, and the three find themselves on a collision course with betrayal and revenge. And it stars Stacy Ross! She’ll have audience on the edge of their seats for sure. Visit What’s Playing or custommade.org.
The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident
FaultLine Theater at PianoFight, SF
You had me at “ice cream sandwich in space.” I think it’s time for us to cool down this summer, and enjoy Barry Eitel’s bizarre, clever and dark journey on a psychological experiment that goes too far. A seemingly simple experimental space mission can soon fall apart when ice cream-related catastrophe strikes. I think it’ll be no secret why the tag line reads, "In fake space, no one can hear you scream…for ice cream.” Plus, this is a great opportunity to catch another play under the direction of James Nelson (award-winning director and TBA stalwart) before we lose him to the harsh world of MFA programs. Visit What’s Playing or faultlinetheater.com.
You Never Can Tell
California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda
Aug. 10-Sep. 4
I am drawn to this show because I am really curious what a Shavian comedy of errors looks and feels like. I have been moved to tears and laughter by George Bernard Shaw on numerous occasions (including Cal Shakes’s production of Man and Superman), but have never experienced a true comedy from Shaw—and this show features comedic savant Danny Scheie and dynamic actor (and Ubuntu Theater Project board member) Michael Torres. Visit What’s Playing or calshakes.org.