Review: “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at American Conservatory Theatre

A Thousand Splendid Suns, currently being presented at the American Conservatory Theatre, is a major theatrical event no matter how you slice it. Khaled Hosseini’s 2007 novel was a major literary sensation, the follow up novel to the 2003 cultural event that was The Kite Runner and a New York Times #1 bestseller for fifteen weeks after publication. It is therefore automatically of note that the first major adaptation is being presented not on Broadway, but in San Francisco, where it is running until the end of February. Not having read the novel, I cannot speak to its quality, nor can I speak to how well playwright Ursula Rani Sarma has adapted the material for the stage, but I can say with some assurance that A Thousand Splendid Suns simply doesn’t work as a piece of stagecraft, being both overly-melodramatic and unfortunately shallow, despite good intentions. Continue reading “Review: “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at American Conservatory Theatre”

Review: “Hand to God” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre

From it’s original incarnation in 2011 to the 2013 MCC production to the original Broadway run, critics seem to almost unanimously agree about one thing: Hand to God is absolutely hysterical. With a humor style a few shades darker than pitch black and a plot structure of pure insanity, it’s hard to walk away from Hand to God doing anything but clutching your aching belly from laughing so hard. What many critics didn’t always pick up on, however, was Hand to God‘s surprisingly enormous sociological implications and thematic sweep, which elevates the unassuming play from a typical comedy to a genuine modern day masterpiece. Continue reading “Review: “Hand to God” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre”

Review: “Daniel’s Husband” at New Conservatory Theatre Center

Daniel’s Husband is a relatively new (ahem) straight play that has been making the regional circuit for the past two years. Now the play has come to San Francisco from New Conservatory Theatre Center in a production ahead of the play’s off-Broadway debut in the spring. Everywhere the play has been, it has garnered extremely enthusiastic reception, so I was very much excited to be able to see what all the fuss was about. Much to my own disappointment, I cannot add my own voice to the overwhelming praise. While Daniel’s Husband features a charming first act, it falters in its second act to create an evening of theatre that even NCTC’s affable production cannot save. Continue reading “Review: “Daniel’s Husband” at New Conservatory Theatre Center”

For Viewing: Robert Askins on Hand to God

Hand to God just opened in a terrific new production at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. There is a review forthcoming (which will probably be my longest theatre review yet), but in the meantime, here is an interesting episode of Theater Talk in which the author Robert Askins talks about the play, along with director Moritz von Stuelpnagel and star of the original company Stephen Boyer

Review: “Hedda Gabler” at the Cutting Ball Theatre

“Hedda Gabler will be 75 minutes long with no intermission” says the program handed out to audience members before the show begins. What? How on earth can someone transform Ibsen’s 2-and-a-half-hour masterpiece of manners into a taught one act piece? Well, judging by the Cutting Ball’s new production, the answer is: not very effectively, though you can’t fault it for lack of trying. Continue reading “Review: “Hedda Gabler” at the Cutting Ball Theatre”

Review: “Disgraced” at The Stage, San Jose

In the words of the official Pulitzer committee, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama is given “for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life”. Measured by this phrase, Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, which won the 2013 Pulitzer and just opened in a terrific new production at The Stage in downtown San Jose, is a theatrical home run. The 2012 drama is blistering and brutal and so politically dense and culturally relevant (perhaps now more than ever) as to make your head spin. Continue reading “Review: “Disgraced” at The Stage, San Jose”