The kids are all right, all by themselves:
Local playwright Christopher Chen borrows from fabulist Italo Calvino to create a dizzying web of fantastical fragments about marriage.
The sheer volume of great theater going on around the Bay Area can be daunting. I’ve picked out a
In some ways the play is as perplexing as its title. The latest world premiere from Crowded Fire Theater, Amelia Roper’s She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange (a title I’m completely incapable of reading without singing it to the tune of Beck’s “Where It’s At”), features four people sitting around in a park making awkward small talk for 75 minutes. They’re two investment bankers and their spouses, and there’s some material in the play about financial shenanigans and the consequences thereof, which is a timely topic but touched on only elliptically. Instead there’s a lot of forced smiles, bizarre non sequiturs and existential dread. They’re almost all strangely childlike, like confused grade schoolers perplexed by the world around them.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A left-wing blogger and a right-wing congressional aide wake up in a hotel room in various levels of undress, with no idea how they got there. The door is locked and their cell phones are gone. It turns out they’ve been abducted by an immaculately poised Georgia beauty queen who wants them to help her rewrite the United States Constitution.
Dance Dance Revolution in the Chinese Land of the Dead? That’s Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s 410[GONE] at Crowded Fire Theater. KQED Arts has my review.
An argument about household chores between an upper-middle-class married couple escalates into grade-school name-calling before they settle down and turn their attention to the pressing topic of an usually large amount of semen found in their teenage son’s underwear. That in turn gets them into a long debate about whether it’s normal to masturbate in class—or, for that matter, at work—and then the husband, an adjunct professor, gets back to work on his book manuscript by snorting a large amount of cocaine.
Yesterday I met up with fellow critics Karen D’Souza of the San Jose Mercury News, Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle, Rob Avila of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Chad Jones of Theater Dogs to pick this year’s Glickman Award winner for the best play to premiere in the Bay Area last year.
Boy, this was a hard year to reduce to a Top Ten. When I look over the list of the 117 shows I attended in 2012, eight strike me as shoo-ins for the list, and then there are fifteen other shows vying for the remaining two slots. Mind you, that’s a good problem to have; there really was a lot of good theater in the Bay Area this year—and, of course, some so-so and not very good theater as well. And of course there’s not any inherent virtue in the vast theaterscape of 2012 being reducible to a list in the first place, so maybe I should quit my kvetching, suck it up, and get to it. Although I’m restricting myself to ten, these shows aren’t ranked or numbered and are listed in chronological order.
It doesn’t matter how much I talk about The Hundred Flowers Project; there’s no way I can adequately capture the dueling senses of chaos and exquisitely crafted architecture that make up Christopher Chen’s play, which in its own way is as ambitious as the mammoth theatrical project that the characters in it are creating—one that, of course, is also called The Hundred Flowers Project. In fact, the more I talk about it the less I feel I ought to, because so much of its magic lies in the unexpected places it goes in Crowded Fire Theater and Playwrights Foundation’s world premiere production, dazzlingly staged by Desdemona Chiang with a superb cast and exquisitely coordinated technical elements.