San Francisco Bay Area theatre companies, ever ambitious, have an unusual penchant for developing new work to go hand-in-hand with their productions of newer plays and classic revivals. This lends a level of excitement to companies in the area, making them feel that they are pushing the boundary instead of just holding down the fort. Occasionally, this can produce great work, like Barry Eitel’s unmistakably San Franciscan The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident. But the challenges of world premieres in the stead of producing the greatest shows of the last five years in New York can have its downfall. When companies get their pick of the litter from New York shows, they have a much higher chance of choosing great material, but a new piece is always a shot in the dark.
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”
Since the death of the great Brian Friel, there are two playwrights who might lay claim to the title of Ireland’s greatest living playwright. Those two are Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson, a pair of writers who could not be more different in writing style if they were born two thousand years apart. While both write black comedies, McDonagh prefers to encourage the audience to laugh as his characters writhe in the filth of their lives, McPherson forces you into the lives of his characters, so that every laugh has a twinge of pain.
Imagine in your head the most stereotypical 21st century American play possible. That play that you just imagined Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities, a perfectly tasteful and well-assembled yet mostly unexciting family drama that was by some miracle nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer prize for drama. There’s certainly a time and a place for this kind of play, though, and if you’re in the mood for something talky and political, City Lights has mounted a knockout production of the work.