A musical twist on The Shop Around the Corner charms at SF Playhouse.
Theresa Rebeck gets deep inside kitchen politics.
Neil Simon and Burt Bacharach made The Apartment into a musical, and I wish they hadn’t.
I have such mixed feelings about Seminar, the play now wrapping up its run at San Francisco Playhouse. On the one hand, it’s a new play by Theresa Rebeck, who gave us the sharp dark comedy
The Scene and the marvelously tangled crime caper Mauritius (as well as more flimsy endeavors such as the workplace sexism satire What We’re Up Against). What’s more, it’s directed by Amy Glazer, who introduced Rebeck to the Bay Area with The Scene at SF Playhouse, which she later directed as the feature film Seducing Charlie Barker, and who clearly has a great affinity for the playwright’s work. And as a satire of fiction writers’ workshops, Seminar is pretty sharp and funny and biting in its own right. Read more
San Francisco Playhouse’s Bauer is the umpteenth local production by prolific local playwright Lauren Gunderson in the last few years, after
The Taming and Exit, Pursued by a Bear with Crowded Fire Theater, I and You at Marin Theatre Company, By and By with Shotgun Players, Silent Sky with TheatreWorks, Emilie with Symmetry Theatre Company, and Toil and Trouble and the short “Damsel and Distress Go to a Party” with Impact Theatre Company. But it’s the very first SF Playhouse commission that has reached the company’s main stage season. As artistic director Bill English explained in his preshow speech opening night, he was so enthralled by a documentary about painter Rudolf Bauer that he saw on TV that he asked Gunderson to write a play about the artist. Like a lot of Gunderson’s recent plays, Bauer already had a subsequent production lined up before it premiered, and it’s going to New York’s 59E59 Theaters in the fall. Read more
John Patrick Shanley has written a lot of plays. He’s best known for 2004’s Doubt, a Parable, which won him a Pulitzer, Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, and a bunch of other awards, but he’s been cranking out plays since the early 1980s. He’s also the screenwriter of such films as Moonstruck, Congo and Joe vs. the Volcano, and I will defend the latter as easily his greatest work. I start with this list of his credentials because when I saw his latest play, Storefront Church at San Francisco Playhouse, my take-away was that this guy isn’t really a playwright.
Neil LaBute writes a lot about cruelty. His 1992 play In the Company of Men showed two businessmen conspiring to break the heart of a deaf female coworker, 2001’s The Shape of Things depicted a shy young man completely redesigned by a new girlfriend as an experiment, and his 2004 play Fat Pig has a budding romance nipped in the bud because a guy’s friends keep giving him a hard time about how overweight his new girlfriend is. His work often leaves him open to charges of misanthropy. I first saw the 1997 film of Company of Men on a video double bill with I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was by far the kinder movie of the two.
The San Francisco Playhouse gives Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat its West Coast premiere, and it’s a motherfucker of a show. I reviewed it over at KQED Arts, where I had to be a bit coyer about the name. I did, however, get to say “there’s a veritable fluffload of profanity in the show.”
Bay Area audiences have become familiar with the devilish and often bloody-minded wit of Martin McDonagh over the last decade or two, largely thanks to excellent productions of the London-born Irish playwright’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. But Berkeley Rep’s had no monopoly on McDonagh by any means, as his plays have been staged by Magic Theatre, TheatreWorks, Wilde Irish and Cal Performances, among others. Now SF Playhouse gets into the act with the regional premiere of A Behanding in Spokane, which debuted on Broadway two years ago.
French playwright Yasmina Reza seems particularly interested in how small things become blown out of proportion. In her ubiquitous play Art, the close friendship between three men is threatened when one of them buys an expensive painting that another one thinks is crap. The Unexpected Man depicts two strangers on a train obsessing over the coincidence that one of them is reading a book that the other one wrote. And in God of Carnage, her 2006 comedy now making its Bay Area debut at San Jose Repertory Theatre, two couples meet to discuss an incident of playground violence between their sons, but their pleasant and civilized chitchat gradually gives way to chaos and savagery.