Kenneth Lonergan, one of our greatest living authors, has a new movie out in limited (but expanding) release right now. Considering that You Can Count on Me and Margaret, his two previous films, are absolute masterpieces, I’m definitely excited for an opportunity to see it. Here’s the trailer if you’re interested.
Review: “The Night Alive” at San Jose Stage Company
Since the death of the great Brian Friel, there are two playwrights who might lay claim to the title of Ireland’s greatest living playwright. Those two are Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson, a pair of writers who could not be more different in writing style if they were born two thousand years apart. While both write black comedies, McDonagh prefers to encourage the audience to laugh as his characters writhe in the filth of their lives, McPherson forces you into the lives of his characters, so that every laugh has a twinge of pain.
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Review: “Safe House” at Aurora Repertory Theatre
How often do people yell in real life? In the past six months, I can only think of about two conversations that have resulted in raised voices that I personally participated in. Keith Josef Adkins, however, would have you believe that the natural colloquy of human beings is loud and emotional. At least, that’s how he presents his characters in his 2014 slavery drama Safe House, a loud and exasperatingly overwrought melodrama that hides its interesting sociopolitical themes in a thick coating of syrupy sentiment.
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For viewing: Katie Thomson
How is Katie Thompson not a Broadway star yet? Her vocal ability is unrivaled by modern singers. For your listening pleasure, here’s Ms. Thompson singing “Leave Luanne” from 35mm by Ryan Scott Oliver (another name that should be bigger).
Review: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at Shotgun Players
If you’ve ever seen a play that involves upper class WASPs having a verbal sparring match over dinner or drinks, you’ve seen a play inspired by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The 1962 play blew the roof off of the dramatic form and shocked Broadway audiences with its takedown of the American nuclear family ideal and the relationship between men and women in the 1960s. Along with the Cold War and the Beatles, it sounded the death knell for post-World War II ideals of the American dream. The play is not much more than a piece of its time, but it still is an intense and interesting work, even if it’s not the masterpiece that it was once claimed to be. If you’ve never seen Virginia Woolf, now is the time to go see it, as Shotgun Players’ production is as good as it could possibly be.
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Review: “The Hard Problem” at the American Conservatory Theatre
The American Conservatory Theatre’s production of Indian Ink, the previous Tom Stoppard piece to play in San Francisco, ranks among the worst things I saw in 2015. One might thus be able to understand my reluctance at attending The Hard Problem, the company’s newest production of a Stoppard opus, especially given the play’s rather tepid reception during its London premiere. However, I am pleased to report that The Hard Problem is a very fine evening of theatre. It’s not the best thing that either the Conservatory or Stoppard has done, but a solid two-base hit that takes Stoppard’s own hyper-intellectualism and boils it down for a broader audience.
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Review: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at The Golden Gate Theatre (tour)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the most shocking and honest musical of 1997. When it was written, transgender* issues were almost unheard of, with trans* women more frequently finding themselves at the center of a punchline than the center of a musical. Nowadays, however, trans* exposure is far more prevalent and attitudes towards the trans* community have thankfully evolved considerably. As a result, Hedwig feels more quaint than shocking, but it’s still a very solid work of ’90s musical theatre with a fantastic punk-pop score and rivals any show for entertainment value when given a perfect production. This touring production struggles from being mounted in rather poor taste, but features two knockout performances and still is a great evening out, as long as you don’t expect any kind of emotional honesty.
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Review: “Seared” at the San Francisco Playhouse
The San Francisco Playhouse, the best regional theatre company in the area, is moving up in the world. After a few years of increasingly impressive productions, finally the company is producing a major world premiere. While I am thrilled that the Playhouse has been given such an opportunity, I’m less thrilled that the play is “Seared”, the new play by Theresa Rebeck. There’s no doubt it’s the best smelling play I’ve ever seen (the show features actual onstage cooking that may have hungry audiences swooning in their seats), but its dramatic integrity is severely lacking.
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Review: “The Brothers Size” at Theatre Rhinoceros
Tarell Alvin McCraney is just about to become a big deal. True, his plays have been produced all around the world, including in New York, but he has remained mostly obscure. That is all going to change when the 2016 film Moonlight hits theaters, which he has written the script for, based on his own play. It premiered Telluride in September to extremely positive reviews and is tapped to be a major contender this awards season. If you want to see one of the author’s earlier works before that film hits the mainstream, Theatre Rhinoceros is producing The Brothers Size in an effective, if slightly shaky, production.
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Review: “Other Desert Cities” at City Lights Theatre Company
Imagine in your head the most stereotypical 21st century American play possible. That play that you just imagined Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities, a perfectly tasteful and well-assembled yet mostly unexciting family drama that was by some miracle nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer prize for drama. There’s certainly a time and a place for this kind of play, though, and if you’re in the mood for something talky and political, City Lights has mounted a knockout production of the work.
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