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”

Review: “Hamlet” in Repertory at Shotgun Players

Every comment, every review, every blurb on Shotgun Players’ Hamlet begins with a description of how this Hamlet differs from all others. Far from it my place to deny the continuation of this tradition, I will now describe what makes this Hamlet different:

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Review: “Safe House” at Aurora Repertory Theatre

How often do people yell in real life? In the past six months, I can only think of about two conversations that have resulted in raised voices that I personally participated in. Keith Josef Adkins, however, would have you believe that the natural colloquy of human beings is loud and emotional. At least, that’s how he presents his characters in his 2014 slavery drama Safe House, a loud and exasperatingly overwrought melodrama that hides its interesting sociopolitical themes in a thick coating of syrupy sentiment.

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Review: “The Hard Problem” at the American Conservatory Theatre

The American Conservatory Theatre’s production of Indian Ink, the previous Tom Stoppard piece to play in San Francisco, ranks among the worst things I saw in 2015. One might thus be able to understand my reluctance at attending The Hard Problem, the company’s newest production of a Stoppard opus, especially given the play’s rather tepid reception during its London premiere. However, I am pleased to report that The Hard Problem is a very fine evening of theatre. It’s not the best thing that either the Conservatory or Stoppard has done, but a solid two-base hit that takes Stoppard’s own hyper-intellectualism and boils it down for a broader audience.

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Review: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at The Golden Gate Theatre (tour)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the most shocking and honest musical of 1997. When it was written, transgender* issues were almost unheard of, with trans* women more frequently finding themselves at the center of a punchline than the center of a musical. Nowadays, however, trans* exposure is far more prevalent and attitudes towards the trans* community have thankfully evolved considerably. As a result, Hedwig feels more quaint than shocking, but it’s still a very solid work of ’90s musical theatre with a fantastic punk-pop score and rivals any show for entertainment value when given a perfect production. This touring production struggles from being mounted in rather poor taste, but features two knockout performances and still is a great evening out, as long as you don’t expect any kind of emotional honesty.

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Review: “Seared” at the San Francisco Playhouse

The San Francisco Playhouse, the best regional theatre company in the area, is moving up in the world. After a few years of increasingly impressive productions, finally the company is producing a major world premiere. While I am thrilled that the Playhouse has been given such an opportunity, I’m less thrilled that the play is “Seared”, the new play by Theresa Rebeck. There’s no doubt it’s the best smelling play I’ve ever seen (the show features actual onstage cooking that may have hungry audiences swooning in their seats), but its dramatic integrity is severely lacking.

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