There are a select few musicals that, despite bombing during their original New York productions, have been produced with surprising regularity by regional theaters across the country, often with revised books. Some have been kind-of fixed, like Merrily We Roll Along or Candide, both of which can make for wonderful entertainment, if not great musicals in and of themselves. Others, such as Anyone Can Whistle or Mack & Mabel, simply don’t work, regardless of who tinkers with what. The reason why such shows continue to be produced despite flaws is that they fulfill two specific criteria. First, they need a wonderful score, the kind that makes the show on record seem like a surefire hit. Secondly, they need a subject matter that sounds interesting enough on paper to make theatre companies think that they will be the first to “crack” the material where others have failed. Such is the case with TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley’s production of Rags, which ultimately does not come together to create a satisfying evening of theatre, but offers enough of interest to reveal why companies still keep giving Rags a shot.
Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley’s 1979 southern tragicomedy, is a truly important work of American theatre — both as a historical document of feminist playwriting in the late ’70s and as a work of domestic drama that re-examines the suburban lifestyle and sisterhood after the McCarthy era had been firmly declared dead. None of this importance is on display in Theatreworks’s production, which is aggressively comic to the point of dulling the central honesty at the heart of the work, but Crimes of the Heart has a slick enough surface to work within this context. Even if it’s not the kind of production you’re going to write home about, it makes for a comfortable matinee, perfect for the rainy weather we’ve been having recently in the area. Continue reading “Review: “Crimes of the Heart” at Theatreworks Silicon Valley”
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.