At its heart, Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn is a play about four women sitting around talking about feminism. As Aurora Theatre Company’s Bay Area premiere demonstrates, however, it’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than that sounds. Catherine (a marvelously self-assured Marilee Talkington) is a hotshot feminist academic writing about pop culture—torture porn, reality TV, you name it—but she’s returned to her home town to take care of her mother after a heart attack. Lillian Bogovich’s upbeat and eager-to-please Alice seems pretty spry and would much rather wait on her daughter than vice versa.
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 is known for unflinching depictions of human cruelty, so what happens when he takes on race in the American heartland? This Is How It Goes. My review is up on KQED Arts.
Only in New York… or maybe Walnut Creek: Center REP is doing Yussef El Guindi’s cross-cultural romantic comedy Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. My review is up on KQED Arts.
Walter Wells is happy. Way, way too happy. So happy that you know that playwright Julie Marie Myatt has it in for him in The Happy Ones at Magic Theatre. KQED Arts has my review.
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.”
Hey, remember last week when I linked to my feature in the Marin Independent Journal about It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Marin Theatre Company and said I’d be reviewing it this week? Well, that happened in today’s Marin IJ, so you can read all about it over yonder.
I interviewed the cast, director and set designer of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Marin Theatre Company, and the feature is in today’s Marin Independent Journal. I know it says “Theater review” up top, but just ignore that; the review won’t be until next week. It looks like my “‘Tis the season” lead didn’t pass muster–dunno if it was that pesky initial apostrophe or just too corny.
It’s clear as soon as you enter the theater at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts that Center REPertory Company is taking a fanciful approach to Arms and the Man, George Bernard Shaw’s 1894 romantic comedy about people with dangerously lighthearted notions of what it means to fight in a war.
It’s a good problem to have: Looking over the list of the 118 local shows I saw this year, I had a hard time narrowing it down to a Top Ten. There are plenty of ways in which 2011 was a tough, lousy, no-good year, but in terms of what I saw on the Bay Area stage, it was pretty damn good. It was a great year for solo shows, between the Marsh (Marga Gomez’s Not Getting Any Younger, Don Reed’s The Kipling Hotel and Geoff Hoyle’s Geezer) and Berkeley Rep (Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and The Last Cargo Cult, Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy and Rita Moreno’s Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup). There were a couple of great visiting performances by screen stars: Kevin Spacey as Richard III, John Malkovich as mass murderer Jack Unterweger. And there were any number of other shows that thoroughly charmed me in one respect or another but didn’t quite crack the Top Ten: Crowded Fire and Asian American Theatre Company’s Songs of the Dragons Crying to Heaven, Sleepwalkers Theatre’s The Nature Line, Shotgun Players’ Beardo and Care of Trees, Impact’s Disassembly, SF Playhouse’s Tigers Be Still. As for what did make it onto the list, I tried to rank them in order of preference, but no matter how many times I tweak it the ranking feels arbitrary. So let’s say that, like one’s own children, I love them all equally, and just hope they buy that.