Playwright Lloyd Suh made a big impression in 2009 with American Hwangap, his hilarious world premiere comedy at Magic Theatre about a Korean-American family dealing with the abrupt return of the father and husband who abandoned them many years before, come back to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. It was easily my favorite new play I saw that year. Now Suh’s back at the Magic with another world premiere, and this one couldn’t be more different. Jesus in India is pretty much what the title implies—a play about Jesus in India. Suh takes on the subject of Jesus’s “lost years” between being born in a manger and the loaves and the fishes and the cross and the hey. So this is Jesus as a teenager, running away from home to go get stoned in India. Oh, and he joins a punk band.
It’s hard not to compare the world premiere of What We’re Up Against to the last (and first) time artistic director Loretta Greco staged a Theresa Rebeck play at Magic Theatre, with 2009′s Mauritius, a whip-smart crime caper about rare stamps with funny, rapid-fire Mametian dialogue. The comparison is more tempting still because more than half the cast of the new play–Rod Gnapp, Warren David Keith and James Wagner–was in the prior production.
Here we are pretty much back where we started on this blog, with my Top Ten list of my favorite shows for the year. It was awfully hard to whittle the 126 shows I saw this year in the Bay Area down to ten, which is probably a good sign: that’s a far better problem to have than not being able to think of ten good ones. I limited myself to shows that actually opened in 2010, which disqualifies shows like Ann Randolph’s hilarious monologue Loveland that otherwise would be high on my list. Most links are to my original reviews earlier in the year, and the shows are more or less in order of preference.
Although based in New York, Liz Duffy Adams is certainly an honorary San Francisco playwright by now, having debuted several plays with Crowded Fire (One Big Lie, The Listener) and the Glickman Award-winning Dog Act with Shotgun Players. Now she’s back with Magic Theatre’s West Coast premiere of Or, (the comma is part of the title), a comedy that debuted at the Women’s Project in New York last year. Having tackled gods and post-apocalyptic landscapes in previous plays, this time Adams takes as her subject the long-neglected Restoration-era writer Aphra Behn, England’s first female professional playwright.
I reviewed this in today’s Marin Independent Journal, so by all means go see what I had to say about it.
Bless me, blog, for I have sinned. Last weekend I made a pilgrimage out to Fort Mason’s Northside Theater (that is to say, Magic Theatre in the off-season) to see Glory Glory, a new play by a new local theater collective, Front Line Theatre. But for a multitude of reasons—mostly deadline week and exhaustion—I haven’t been able to write about it until now, when the two-weekend run is about to end.
Fourteenth show of 2010: Oedipus el Rey, Magic Theatre, February 3.
Top Ten Theater Productions of 2009
Although I started 2009 reviewing theater for one paper and ended the year reviewing for another, when I look over the list of the 108 shows I saw over the course of the year to determine my top ten, I realize that none of my favorite shows are ones that I actually reviewed. Those respective papers have space, money and geographical constraints, and it just happened that there was no overlap between the shows in my review docket and those in this year’s top ten.