There is a common phenomenon in modern playwriting that this reviewer likes to dub: “the revelation of a micro-aggression”. This is a moment within a play in which one character says something seemingly innocuous to another character, which that second character calls out for being subtly racist, sexist, classist, or judgmental of some sort. This being theatre, where, unless you’re an Annie Baker or a Kenneth Lonergan, everything has to mean something, this seemingly harmless comment is actually almost invariably a physical manifestation of a gargantuan chasm of hatred that exists within the first character’s soul. Prime examples of this phenomenon include prize-winning works like Disgraced or Clybourne Park, but perhaps have never existed more potently than in Christopher Chen’s You Mean to Do Me Harm, which is currently playing in its world-premiere production through the San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series at the Strand Theatre.
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Farce is quickly becoming the most under-appreciated form of theatre. Though most modern audiences are generally familiar with the format, specifically its penchant for slamming doors while terrified characters duck in and out of the stage at a rapid pace, its immense difficulty in staging tends to intimidate most theatre companies, and thus simpler comedic fare is favored—I have not had the pleasure of getting to see a production of a proper farce since I first started reviewing shows two years ago. That’s reason enough to celebrate the San Francisco Playhouse’s current production of Noises Off, a genuine high-speed farce in which every single one of the show’s ten doors gets slammed with metronomic regularity for the entirety of the performance.
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There’s no two ways about it: The Christians is magnificent. Lucas Hnath has been an author to watch for some time now, with his fascinatingly complex plays that use the medium of stagecraft in bold and innovative ways in order to tackle the enormously complicated issues that we all face merely by existing. With The Christians, a quasi-reworking of the Antigone myth, Hnath has firmly established himself as an important modern playwright, creating his most dramatically complete and emotionally resonant play to date. San Francisco Playhouse is currently mounting a production of The Christians that is, in a word: perfect, undoubtably serving as the company’s finest production yet.
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She Loves Me, the 1963 Bock and Harnick romantic musical comedy, has always gotten the short end of the stick, historically. Nobody who has ever seen it thinks its less than a miniature work of musical comedy gold, but the original production—which was directed by the great Harold Prince and starred the legendary Barbara Cook—ran less than a year. Since then, the only major New York revivals have been noncommercial productions that lasted less than half a year each. Thankfully, San Francisco has been gifted with a wonderful production of this wonderful musical, and you should not miss your chance to see She Loves Me while its at the San Francisco Playhouse.
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Few genres of movie went out of style as quickly as noir. Ushered in with the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rebecca and proving to be one of the most popular genres with audiences, the last recognizable entries in the genre were in 1959. Though it’s doubtful many modern audiences have watched a true film noir from start to finish, the imprint that these films left on the public consciousness can not be erased. City of Angels, a musical from 1989, was written specifically to parody and comment upon the generally vague concept of noir that audiences have. It’s not a wholly successful show, mostly because noir tropes just don’t translate to live performance, but it is unlikely that you will ever get to see a better production of the show than the one currently running at the San Francisco Playhouse, which continues the company’s legacy of extremely high quality live theatre in the best way. Continue reading “Review: “City of Angels” at the San Francisco Playhouse”