Solo-show favorites Brian Copeland and Marga Gomez are back at the Marsh, and this time they’re both stepping back from the autobiographical. My review is on KQED Arts.
Alicia Dattner’s solo show is a recovery narrative on the rebound from sleeping around too much. KQED Arts has my report.
The Bay Area is blessed with more than its share of terrific solo theater artists, and new ones are coming out of the woodwork all the time. I hadn’t had a chance to check out Thao P. Nguyen’s work before now, but I feel awfully fortunate to have managed to catch her one-woman show Fortunate Daughter at Impact Theatre last weekend. A story about trying to figure out how to come out as a lesbian to her supportive but still fairly traditional Vietnamese family, FD debuted at the New York Fringe Festival last year, directed by W. Kamau Bell, and then enjoyed a sold-out run at StageWerx helmed by Martha Rynberg, who also directs it here.
A Killer Story is a strange case. It has the trappings of a hardboiled detective yarn, but instead of snappy dialogue what you have is competing, overlapping monologues that are less about the case in question than the idea of the case—or rather the idea of detective work in general. Our gumshoe’s not big on details. It’s a show at the Marsh Berkeley, a hub for solo theater pieces, but this one’s a play written for a cast of three, even if they all tell their separate versions of the same story as if they’re performing three solo shows at the same time.
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.
Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass is a relative rarity for the Marsh—a solo show not written by the performer. Local writer Lynne Kaufman’s first one-person play, follows the spiritual teacher (and former Marin County resident) on a long, strange series of trips, hallucinogenic and otherwise, that took him from being young Harvard professor Richard Alpert to “Be Here Now” guru Ram Dass.
Brian Copeland has a lot going on. His last one-man show at the Marsh, Not a Genuine Black Man, ran off and on for seven years, setting a record for the longest-running solo show in San Francisco history. The longtime standup comic also hosts KGO radio’s Brian Copeland Show and ABC’s 7Live TV talk show. But he’s also struggled with crushing depression, as detailed in his long-anticipated new solo show The Waiting Period, which opened its world premiere run last Saturday at the Marsh after a few weeks of previews. The play captures a particularly dark period after his grandmother died, he totaled his car, and his wife left without explanation. The title refers to the ten-day waiting period required by buy a gun, which Copeland is only shopping for in case he wants to do himself in.
“According to Wikipedia, Marga Gomez is known for her honesty,” Marga Gomez says in Not Getting Any Younger, her new solo show at the Marsh’s upstairs studio stage. She notes that the website singles her out as one of the first out gay comedians in the country; “I tried to pass for straight, but what’s the point of lying is nobody believes you?” The one thing she lies about, she says, is her age.
It’s hard to imagine the Bay Area theater scene without Geoff Hoyle, who’s been a tremendous comedic presence on local stages from the early days of the Pickle Family Circus down to frequent shows at Berkeley Rep and ACT today (not to mention notable side trips such as the original cast of Broadway’s The Lion King). From the start his work has been so rooted in his marvelous facility for physical comedy that it’s especially striking that his new, sold-out solo show is about the body falling apart. An often hilarious reflection on aging, Geezer was developed with and directed by David Ford at the latter’s frequent stomping ground the Marsh, where Hoyle’s son Dan has enjoyed long runs in his solo shows Tings Dey Happen and The Real Americans (the latter is still running after a hiatus to recover from a leg injury).