Stage

Fill her up

This year's Women on the Way festival sets off sparks
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW In the late 1990s, Mary Alice Fry, artistic director of the now defunct Venue 9, found a hole. She has been filling them ever since.

The January performance calendars at her theater and many other local small venues, she noticed, were empty. At the same time her curatorial experience had shown that women artists still had a harder time getting noticed than their male counterparts. Read more »

"Trench" mouth

The blog that ate San Francisco! Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's new play takes on the neighbors. Plus: The best of Sketchfest
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW So I used to live, for a couple of years, around the corner from the Atlas Café in the Mission District. You may know the place. It's nice. I probably went there more than I should have. I certainly don't want to think how much money I sank there. The beetloaf sandwich is excellent. The point is, one day I saw Peter Sinn Nachtrieb there. He's the local playwright with the budding national reputation ever since his very sharp and funny Hunter Gatherers took off a couple of years ago. Very nice guy, too. Read more »

"Tantalus"

The Shotgun Players raise the bar with a staged reading of John Barton's daunting 10-play cycle
|
(0)

PREVIEW Last year's audacious staged reading of the complete Tom Stoppard trilogy The Coast of Utopia saw the Shotgun Players expanding their already broad horizons to encompass a rarely performed heavyweight piece exploring the roots of Russian radicalism. Read more »

Return to deform

Banana Bag and Bodice take Beowulf on an epic journey
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

PREVIEW One of the most exciting and unusual theatrical events of 2008 came from a small San Francisco–spawned, now Brooklyn-based company: the curiously named Banana Bag and Bodice. It almost sounds unexpected, but in fact BBB, which retains close ties to the Bay Area, has been doing shrewd, highly imaginative, often startlingly designed songplays — their preferred term — with practically no budget for about a decade. Read more »

"The W. Kamau Bell Curve"

Reflections on the recent election and Proposition 8
|
(0)

REVIEW Standup comic W. Kamau Bell has reopened his frank, funny, and genuinely thoughtful one-man show at SF Playhouse, and it's worth catching if you haven't yet (I took in a recent performance at the Climate).

Subtitled "Ending Racism in About an Hour," Bell's reflections on the recent election and Proposition 8, among other race-inflected personal and political matters still closer to home, are topical, to say the least, and run considerably deeper than the usual one-liners or simplistic oppositions of much race-based comedy. Read more »

Lincoln flogs

Beowulf, phantoms, and swearing Scots mark the year in theater
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Barack Obama wasn't the only lanky senator from Illinois to have a triumph on the stage, political or otherwise, this year. Abraham Lincoln took a couple of bows himself. Of course, many have noted the weighty coincidence of the country's first African American president following Lincoln's senatorial trail to the White House. But who could match Thick Description's revival of Suzan-Lori Parks' The America Play — focusing on an African American protagonist whose calling involves dressing up in Lincoln drag — for political prescience? Read more »

Dig it

History proves as timely as ever in Thick Description's revival of The America Play
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW Long before Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize–winning Topdog/Underdog (2002) was bedazzling them on Broadway, an earlier and related work called The America Play (1990-93) was wowing Bay Area audiences in a small but vital production staged by Thick Description. Read more »

Party hardy

Smuin Ballet's holiday extravaganza "The Christmas Ballet" is a mixed bag
|
(0)

REVIEW Going to Smuin Ballet's The Christmas Ballet feels like going to a big party. You're glad to see some guests while others make you want to head for the door. Currently touring the Bay Area, the 15-year-old holiday extravaganza finishes its annual run at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Dec. 17 to 28.

It's easy to see why this two-part concoction of 30 numbers, divided into The Classical Christmas and The Cool Christmas, has become a holiday staple. If the late Michael Smuin was anything, he was an entertainer. Read more »

Rolling out the carpet

Mary Zimmerman takes another Bay Area bow with The Arabian Nights
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW Director Mary Zimmerman's association with the Berkeley Rep goes back to 1996's Journey to the West, her adaptation of the classical Chinese novel, famously followed in 2001 by Metamorphoses, a visually startling adaptation from Ovid's collection of Greek and Roman myths for which she went on to receive a directing Tony. Read more »

Wonder as they wander

Traversing Joe Turner's Come and Gone and The Last Yiddish Poet
|
(0)

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

The great Langston Hughes titled a volume of his autobiography I Wonder as I Wander, invoking the notion of the poet in terms entirely personal and inevitably representative of a whole people, violently unsettled by history and restlessly searching for meaning, home, dignity — in short, for themselves. In Hughes' art, this dovetailed with the image of the poet as blues singer and the blues singer as poet. Read more »