Once again, I’ve been remiss in giving timely reviews to all the shows I’ve seen in the last month. Perhaps I will make a resolution to write posts immediately after shows in the year to come.
I added a new venue to my list in November–the Brava Theatre, where I saw the fabulous Marga Gomez perform her one-woman show “Pound.” It was a hilarious journey through her current life as a single, middle-aged lesbian, with some film critique and fantasy thrown in. I always love Marga. That particular show ended, but she’s going to be part of a big New Year’s Eve bash at the Brava, which will probably be loads of fun.
Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss” at SF Playhouse was a treat. Carrie Paff and Gabriel Marin are always a joy to watch. The premise is that two ex-lovers are cast as the romantic leads in a play. So the audience gets to see both the play itself and the play within the play. Mark Anderson Phillips gets to play his part for laughs–a director who doesn’t know when to quit when he’s behind. And Michael Gene Sullivan (who, for me, is synonymous with the SF Mime Troupe, which means I still have to get used to seeing him indoors) is the patient husband who plays the innocent, even though he’s not officially part of the play within the play. And you can probably guess that a lot of acting goes on, whether onstage or off, and that the offstage behavior rivals the play itself until you can hear Shakespeare’s old adage about all the world’s a stage. It’s great fun. And it’s been extended, so get yourself a ticket now!
PlayGround’s Monday Night Series was on fire in November during its annual musical theater night. Local folk duo Misner & Smith performed their songs, which were the inspirations for the plays. The result was a great combo of lovely harmonies and great storytelling. I may be biased, having had one of my plays among the six showcased, but I swear that everyone around me seemed to be having a grand old time.
It’s the end of an era for the Playwrights’ Center’s Sheherezade’s Last Tales, which celebrated its fifteenth year bringing short plays to the stage. Word is that it’s not disappearing but morphing into something else, but we don’t know what that will be. Sheherezade 15 was a mix of zany, serious, and thought-provoking vignettes that covered family relationships, changing identities, and the dating scene for the over-60 crowd. Out of the eight offerings, a few were ambitious but just missed the mark, one or two could have used a tad more development, and about half were genuinely worthwhile. But that’s the beauty of seeing several short plays–if you’re not engaged by one, another one will be on stage shortly. I’ll be interested in seeing what the Playwrights’ Center comes up with to take SLT’s place.
“Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s murder mystery playing at the Shotgun Players’ Ashby Stage, is a great night of theater. A winter storm strands several unusual characters together in a newly redone inn in the English countryside shortly after a murder in London. And so the twisted tale begins and the questions arise: Who will die? Who is the killer? How are these people related to each other? And why does the stranger who claims to have had car trouble have such a bad Italian accent? (Trivia side note: Agatha Christie was an expert surfer!) My favorite performance was Nick Medina’s version of Christopher Wren. He looked like he was having the time of his life up there, which made me enjoy it even more. Lucky for any of you who haven’t yet seen this show, it’s been extended until January 24. So there’s no excuse to miss it!
The Ira Glass collaboration with Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass that recently graced Zellerbach’s stage was the most original show of the year. When else have I attended a show that featured a modern dance company and a radio legend famous for his storytelling? The iconic host of This American Life provided the text for “Three Acts, Two Dancers, and One Radio Show Host” while Monica and Anna showed off their distinctive choreography. And Ira danced too!
Word for Word’s “Holiday Hijinx” was a real delight and a nice twist on traditional holiday fare. The three stories were set in Depression-era New York and were all written by journalists. My favorite was E.B. White’s “Christmas and Relative Pronouns,” which was published in The New Yorker in December of 1932. I’m just sad that the traffic on the bridge made us too late to imbibe the complimentary pre-show Tom & Jerry, the cocktail that featured prominently in the opening story, Damon Runyon’s “Dancing Dan’s Christmas.” It made me want to come home and make myself a Tom & Jerry. (Who am I kidding? Of course, I’d ask my mixologist husband, Dave, to make it.)