Drama Talk & Drinks: The Secret Garden “Grief and some ghosts’

The holidays make us nostalgic for childhood. So when we saw that 42nd Street Moon was doing a production of The Secret Garden, we thought what better way to spend a fun holiday night out? After-all, what’s more Christmassy than reclusive uncles, invalid children, and ghosts? So we headed down to the Financial District for some drama talk and drinks.

(L to R) Katie Maupin as Mary Lennox, Sharon Rietkerk as Lily, and Brian Watson as Archibald Craven, photo by Ben Krantz Studios

Brittany: I’m always impressed by the voices of the casts in 42nd Street Moon productions. The Secret Garden needs awesome voices. The music is tricky, and really, the pretty songs are most of what this show has going for it. They had the great voices things covered. I also liked the costumes and set. But, while I enjoyed listening to the pretty voices, it’s kind of a weird show.

Katie: The actress who played Lily (Sharon Rietkerk), holy shit, she was incredible. Pretty much spot on to the Broadway recording I listened-to on repeat when I was like 10. Also, the little girl who played Mary (Katie Maupin) killed it. She had the perfect look and voice for that part. Such good casting. Now that I have finally seen this live for the first time, I’ve realized it’s kind of a sleepy musical. Some of the songs are sooo long, and then they reprise them! I would have cut it down a bit. It was a good production though. I liked their use of projections.

B: Overall it was very well done. It’s just a hard play. There isn’t really much conflict to drive the story. I guess there’s the tension between Dr. Uncle who doesn’t think Colin should get out of bed vs. Mary who wants to take him out to the garden. Otherwise it’s just a show about grief and some ghosts. I still enjoyed it, and got misty eyed at the happy ending. It’s not my favorite musical, but 42nd Street Moon did very good production.

K: I feel a young person would like this…it’s just long. If you love the Secret Garden you will like this.

B: If you like the story of the Secret Garden, it’s fun to see it on stage. I feel like this would be a great show to see with your grandparents or the children in your life. It was sweet and entertaining classic childhood story.

The Verdict: Want to see a sweet and classic childhood story told onstage? Love the story of The Secret Garden? Like musicals with pretty songs and singing? Then you’ll probably want to see this show.

The Drama Talk: 42nd Street Moon is decidedly not edgy, but in a way that’s what this company has going for it. They do really lovely and faithful stagings of classic musicals. Their latest production, The Secret Garden, is about as good as this play gets. It was very well cast, well sung, and beautifully rendered on the small Gateway Theater stage. While it’s not a groundbreaking show, it’s a cozy classic that gives you a warm fuzzy ending. Sometimes that’s all you want at the holidays.

The Drinks: After watching a musical that’s set long long ago, it felt appropriate to go to a bar with a theatrical old school feel. Luckily just a few blocks away on Columbus there was the Comstock Saloon. It has that very old timey decor, classic cocktails and all the servers are in black bowties. It definitely adds to the night out feel.

The Secret Garden plays through December 24th at the Gateway Theatre. Tickets range are $15-$55 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Bright Star – “We expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.’”

The Curran’s first year of being open after a major renovation is coming to a close, and what a year it has been. The shows we saw at the Curran were some of our very favorites of the entire season, so we were so excited to see their last show of the year Bright Star, a musical written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Unfortunately, Brittany had a last minute work commitment come up, so luckily my Brittany replacement, Garrett, was available and more than willing to join me for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Garrett: Going into the show not knowing what it was about, maybe wasn’t the best idea because it took me a little bit to get into the story, which made it start off slow and at some points I was confused about what decade we were in. As far as the story, the emotion and music, the second act was better than the first act for me. I think the highlight was the style of music, I loved the old americana and bluegrassy type of stuff. The songs weren’t very memorable, but they were good enough to carry it.

Katie: For me I just didn’t care too much about what was happening until the end of the first act. I didn’t care much for the story in general, it kind of fell flat. The highlight was the lead actress Carmen Cusack. What a voice and what presence. I never wanted her to leave the stage…but she did, and too much in my opinion. She was outstanding, the show however, was just good.

G: Knowing that Steve Martin co-wrote this I expected more wit and a little more comedy and creativity as far as the story and lyrics. I think what they were trying to do was create a story about the American South, and a little slice of life but they didn’t quite pull that off.

K: Yes! I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I was underwhelmed. The elements of this musical from the side stories, to the going back and forth in time, to the large dancing ensemble who were awkwardly integrated into scenes, just didn’t quite harmonize. Definitely nothing groundbreaking to see here and frankly we expected more from you, Steve Martin.

G: It’s true, we expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.

The Verdict: Go to see Tony nominated actress Carmen Cusack sing the hell out Steve Martin’s songs. If you like the bluegrass style of music and melodrama then this is going to be a toe-taping, tear jerking good time.

The Drama Talk: We knew Steve Martin had a bluegrass musical side, which comes through beautifully in this show, but his thought provoking, witty and moving writing style doesn’t. Where this show shines is in its extremely likable lead character, Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack), as well as the set and costume design. The rotating shack that housed the bluegrass band was well done and whimsical, where the costumes really took you back to the 20’s and 40’s. Overall this musical is an enjoyable and entertaining experience.

The Drinks: Since this was about a time where a lot of things were forbidden going to an unmarked somewhat secret bar seemed appropriate. Good think less than a block away from the theater there is Benjamin Cooper that has that speakeasy feel and great cocktails.

Bright Star plays through December 17th at the Curran. Tickets range are $39-$145 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Totes Blessed – “we’re kinda ‘basic bitches’”

It’s good to to be able to laugh at ourselves, especially our #bestlife Instagram personas. Which is what drew us to Totes Blessed the new sketch show by Chardonnay Comedy now playing at PianoFight. The show promised  ”a safe space to unpack what being basic even means” which sounded like a pretty hilarious way to spend a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

Totes Blessed

Brittany: That was so fun. It’s sketch, so not every bit was a winner, but generally I had a great time.

Katie: I was genuinely entertained. I would have loved a little more diversity in the ladies in the group. I felt like they were making fun of a very white privileged lifestyle. The message of the show was also a little unclear. The first quarter they make fun of being a “basic bitch” and then they say it’s okay to be “basic” because we should empower women to be themselves and not judge them for loving the things the love, like brunch. Then they made fun of being basic some more.

B: Part of me feels like they were just acknowledging the fact that yeah, we’re kinda “basic bitches” and we recognize that. We like “basic bitch” things like pumpkin spice everything, and juice cleanses, and group colonics, and posting inspirational quotes on social media. We know it’s ridiculous, but that’s still just us. I agree it was a mixed message, but I think that’s okay. It’s not a super feminist piece or a very deep show, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s not going to change the world or the environment…oh that poor polar bear.

K: When it got shot it was really funny though. Also that LA yoga-girl podcast sketch was amazing. I feel like that one also did a good job calling out their whiteness.

B: Yeah, that was hilarious. I also liked the Ivanka and Melania Trump Thanksgiving skit, and the Tilden Swinton on Sesame Street sketch was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

The Verdict: Great for a ladies night out. If you are a white women between the ages of 25-35 you will for sure enjoy this show. Generally if you’re in your 20s or 30s and living in SF you’ll probably think this is pretty funny.

The Drama Talk: The Chardonnay Comedy troupe is a filled with a bunch of very funny Bay Area 20/30 something women, and that is the experience that this show draws from. As Bay Area 30 something cis-women ourselves, we thought it was pretty hilarious, as did our dates (two white Bay Area 30 something cis-men). We don’t think our grandparents would find this show very funny, since they wouldn’t get the references, but that’s part of what makes this show so fun. It holds up a carnival mirror to our culture, and forces us to laugh at ourselves.

The Drinks: PianoFight is awesome because it also has a restaurant and bar, so we got dinner and drinks before the show there (they have a special “Basic Bitch” cocktail on the menu to get you in the mood). While we usually stay and debrief at the PianoFight bar, this time we decided to check out a newer bar on the same block called Biig for our post-show drinks. This is a bar with no menu, limited seating, and music at a volume level that encourages intimate meaningful conversation. It’s very adult, very posh and we loved it.

Chardonnay Comedy’s Totes Blessed runs Friday and Saturday nights through November 18th at PianoFight. Tickets are available through Eventbrite and range from $15-$40.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Disney’s Aladdin – “All flash and no substance.”

A Disney caravan rolled into town this week, with the opening of the Broadway tour of Aladdin at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. It’s a favorite childhood movie for both of your DT&D columnists, so we decided to check it out.

Photo Credit: Deen van Meer  Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Anthony Murphy (Genie). Disney's Aladdin North American Tour Original Cast. ©Disney.

Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Anthony Murphy (Genie). Disney’s Aladdin North American Tour Original Cast. ©Disney. Photo Credit: Deen van Meer 

Brittany: It was so shiny and flashy. I guess it’s Disney, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but it had such amazingly high production values. The costumes were gorgeous and there were hundreds of them and the sets were crazy. I mean, fireworks happened on stage multiple times, and they actually rode a flying carpet, that’s nuts.

Katie: Totally, but for me, that’s all this show had going for it. I’m a huge Aladdin fan, and I just don’t think it translated to the stage. It was just super cheesy.  I get that they had to make changes to make it work as a musical, but all the changes were lame. I had hoped they would add value in their re-imagining of the movie for the stage, but they just added a bunch of terrible filler songs. Super disappointing.

B: Agreed the filler songs weren’t great. I also was disappointed that they got rid of the animal sidekicks and added in a bunch of one-dimensional annoying friends for Aladdin and Jasmine instead. In the movie Aladdin and Jasmine don’t have any friends (who are people), which is part of what drives the story.  Given how good they are at spectacle, and how well Disney has done animals on stage for shows like the Lion King, it’s strange they didn’t make some super creative costumes that allowed the play to keep those characters. I wanted Abu and Rajah!

K: This show was just disappointing. The adaptation was lackluster and none of the actors blew me away. Jafar wasn’t scary, Aladdin was too self-confident to be endearing, and I thought all the new characters they added were dumb.

B: The songs “Never Had A Friend Like me” and “Prince Ali”  were damn impressive, and met my expectations in terms of generating wide-eyed excitement, but you’re right, all this show had going for it is spectacle. Big show-stopping numbers with impressive tech.

K: It felt like a money grab to me. All flash and no substance.

The Verdict: This show could be a fun way to introduce a kid to theater since it’s so technically impressive, and they probably won’t mind the lack of depth. But if you are an Aladdin fan we recommend staying in and just re-watching the movie.

The Drama Talk: Aladdin is a valuable Disney francise, and this show is just another way for producers to cash-in on the brand. If all you want is to see some gorgeous costumes, cinematically beautiful sets, and a few big song and dance numbers than you may like this. For us, it fell short of the movie. Jafar wasn’t nearly as scary, Aladdin wasn’t nearly as deep, and Jasmine didn’t feel as strong. It feels like this production is really made for kids who care more about spectacle than storyline.

The Drinks: We’ve been to the Orpheum enough times that we now have official SHN cups that we bring to the theater with us. These cups, which you can also purchase with your drink order, allow you to bring drinks into the theatre to enjoy during the show. This Aladdin is definitely a spectacle better appreciated with some bubbly.

Aladdin runs through January 7th at the Orpheum Theater. Tickets are available on their website for $45-$200. There are $40 in-person rush tickets available.  Goldstar also currently has tickets for $55-$75.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Ain’t Misbehavin’ – “trying to do things the old-school way”

Sometimes when things are feeling bleak, and it smells like the world is burning down around you, it’s nice to escape into something light, fun, and maybe a little mindless. While cat videos are always an option, you can feel more sophisticated (and support the local arts scene) by going out and seeing a musical. That’s what we did last weekend when went out for drama talk and drinks and the opening of Ain’t Misbehavin’ the latest production of 42nd Street Moon.

The Cast of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (L to R): Arís-Allen Roberson, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Erica Richardson, Ashley D. Gallo, and Branden ‘Noel’ Thomas. Photo by Ben Krantz Studios

The Cast of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (L to R): Arís-Allen Roberson, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Erica Richardson, Ashley D. Gallo, and Branden ‘Noel’ Thomas. Photo by Ben Krantz Studios

Brittany: What a fun classic American musical.

Katie: Those actors were incredible! They all had amazing voices and such stage presence. I just wish they used microphones. The band was great, but there were moments I couldn’t hear the singers, and that was distracting.

B: 42nd Street Moon is trying to do things the old-school way, so they aren’t using microphones on purpose, but that was probably my biggest complaint too. I like what the company is trying to do though, honest rivals of these classic shows. I think it was very successful in that.

K: I totally agree, the costumes, the staging, and the choreography all felt very authentic. I feel like this show would be more fun in a different space though. This is a much more traditional theater atmosphere, but this felt like more of a cabaret show. It was a little long to just sit and watch with no plot or story. I think more of a cabaret atmosphere would have suited the show better. I still enjoyed it though, especially some of the songs in the second act.

B: This show is hard for a modern audience, because you are just sitting and watching a series of song and dance numbers. Really well done song and dance numbers, but that’s it. I guess we’re just spoiled with shows like Speakeasy, where there’s a cabaret going on, but you can also walk around, have drinks, play casino games, and then come back to hear more song and dance.

K: Overall, I think it was a well done production. I liked the set, the lighting, and costumes. I felt like I was watching a show  in the 1930’s. It felt very lively, moody and cool.

The Verdict: If you love jazzy music from the 1920s and 30s, this is the perfect show for you.

The Drama Talk: They don’t really make shows like Ain’t Misbehavin’ any more. This musical revue was created as a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance. If you like jazzy, swing music, you’ll probably really enjoy this show. The second act had some of our favorite moments of the show, including a dope song and dance about a five foot joint “The Viper’s Drag” and a beautiful rendition of “Black and Blue”. Like many things that were written a while ago, there were some cringe-worthy moments of sexism, as well as some awkward-to-watch bits of pandering to racist stereotypes. However, overall, 42nd Street Moon creates an engaging, enjoyable and authentic revival of this classic show.

The Drinks: Saturday shows are at 6pm so we ended up getting dinner and drinks after the show a couple blocks away on Columbus Avenue at Doc Ricketts. If you want to see a show after the show, check out Doc’s Lab, which is the venue underneath Doc Ricketts.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through October 29th at the Gateway Theatre. Tickets range from $30-$75 and are available on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $22.50-$25.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Role Call – “Am I supposed to be impressed with how actorly you can be?”

We have never seen a show from the company FoolsFURY so we were excited to learn about their new show Role Call, which is comprised of two new one-woman shows by local theater artists. The first piece Sheryl, Hamlet and Me, written and performed by Michelle Haner “explores the costs of ambition in the digital era.” The second piece (dis)Place[d], written and performed by Debórah Eliezer, “tells her story as the child of a first-generation immigrant to America ‘caught between cultures.’” We have also never been NOH Space where the pieces were being performed. So we headed to Potrero Hill for for some new experiences and drama talk and drinks.

Debórah Eliezer, left, and Michelle Haner, right. Photo by Wendy Yalom

Debórah Eliezer, left, and Michelle Haner, right. Photo by Wendy Yalom

Brittany: I wish I could say something positive, because I really want to support female voices, local playwrights and small scale theater. Both of these shows were  just so out of touch with what most people would want to watch, I just don’t think I can recommend it.

Katie: Yeah, I completely agree…I don’t know what else to say right now. I didn’t connect with either piece… at times they almost felt like parodies of one-woman shows. Both scripts were all over the place, they never let me fully connect to the stories they were trying to tell. And a big personal pet peeve, both of the actors did characters that had accents which were inconsistent.

B: Yeah, there were tons of little messy things like that which took me out of both pieces, but I think the biggest challenges with both of these plays is they tried to do too much. The second play (dis)Place[d] had some good moments, and I liked the concept of telling this very personal story about her father’s life to explore her complicated Jewish-Arab identity. However, she tried to play too many characters, and wasn’t able to do them all well, which detracted from the story. Also that bizarre, poetic desert-goddess character really took me out of it.

K: Yeah, I could have definitely done without that, and the weird recorded voice with the echo effect with the over the top movement.  I did love when she (Debórah Eliezer) sang though, she has a beautiful voice. A simpler telling of the same story would have been so much better.

B: Then the first piece, Sheryl, Hamlet, and Me, I didn’t enjoy at all. Sometimes actors take themselves way too seriously, and this play is a perfect example of how out of touch theater can feel when that happens. I studied acting, so I get where the breathing and stylized movement come from, but when taken to this extreme it just feels self indulgent. Am I supposed to be impressed with how actorly you can be? She made a few good points about how is Facebook creepy, but it wasn’t that insightful. It almost felt like she realized she had to make a point that people could connect with, and so she decided to pander to tech hating in the Bay Area since that’s an easy target.

K: Yeah, I don’t really know what she was going for, but I didn’t connect to this piece at all. If you could come for just one of the shows (dis)Place[d] felt like it had potential, but Sheryl, Hamlet and Me I’d definitely skip.

The Verdict: Not a show we would recommend for non-theatergoers. Maybe not even a show we would recommend for frequent theatergoers, although it is always interesting to see new plays by local female playwrights.

The Drama Talk: While it’s clear both of the women who created and performed these shows are talented, we didn’t particularly enjoy either of these plays. They try to do too much, they indulge in overly stylized techniques to the detriment of their stories, and they just weren’t that engaging. With some major edits (dis)Place[d] could be a really lovely piece. While Sheryl, Hamlet and Me tried some interesting techniques with video, the story just wasn’t there. We didn’t care about any of the characters (Sheryl Sandberg, Hamlet or the playwright as herself), and so we didn’t really care about the play.

The Drinks: We checked out Darger Bar, which was once Dear Mom. We liked the reboot. Still a lot of seating and relaxed atmosphere but a better drink and food menu.

Role call plays until October 22nd at NOH Space. Tickets are available on their website for $30. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $15.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Mineola Twins – “Ridiculously relevant”

Fall theater season is upon us, which means lots of great new shows to see around the Bay Area. Cutting Ball Theater’s first show of their 17/18 season just opened at the Exit Theater on Taylor. The Mineola Twins, by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel, is a “razor sharp satire about domestic upheaval in times of political progress and in the rise of conservatism”. It sounded like a pretty timely topic, so we headed over the the TL for some drama talk and drinks.

Elissa Beth Stebbins as Myra (right), Steve Thomas (left) and Sango Tajima (center) Photo by Liz Olson

Elissa Beth Stebbins as Myra (right), Steve Thomas (left) and Sango Tajima (center) Photo by Liz Olson

Katie: That was so interesting! What a cool story! I wish I went in knowing a little bit more about the script. Usually I like to be surprised, but this was such a smart show, I think may have gotten more out of the first few scenes if I had known more about the story.

Brittany: I really liked it. The woman who played the twins (Elissa Beth Stebbins) was amazing. She played each sister so well I honestly couldn’t tell at first if there were two different but nearly identical looking actors, or just one amazing actor playing both roles. Turns out it was just one incredibly talented person, but her physicality was so good each character was totally distinct.

K: Yes, she was remarkable. It was such an interesting show too. I was constantly curious about where the story was going to go next.  It is ridiculously relevant to what the country is going through now and it’s a play that was written in the 90s. I think it did such a great job at creatively exploring the left versus right, conservative versus liberal.

B:  Yes it’s super timely. It also makes you reflect on your own beliefs, and that feeling of superiority that comes with feeling you have the moral high-ground. It’s great to see a play that reveals so much about the division in our society without hitting the audience over the head with politics too. It was just a compelling story about twins, who while they couldn’t be more different, still are the same.

The Verdict: Go see it! Great actors and a super relevant script make it an enjoyable thought-provoking evening.

The Drama Talk: Even though this play was written in the 90s it couldn’t feel more contemporary and in-tune with the political turmoil happening today. Cutting Ball Theater always does really relevant work, but their artistic director did a great job picking this play for this season. Beyond a great script the lead actor Elissa Beth Stebbins was remarkable. It’s worth going just to see her performance. While there were some nitpicky things that we didn’t love, the show as a whole was so engaging nothing could really detract.

The Drinks: A block from the Exit on Theater, is a chill cocktail bar in the Tilden Hotel called The Douglas Room. It has great cocktails and delicious well priced snacks. We also love that they had plenty of seating the two times we have gone. It was a great place to debrief about this thought provoking show.

The Mineola Twins plays through October 29th the Exit on Taylor. Tickets range are $35 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $15-$20.

Drama Talk & Drinks on BFF.fm Roll Over Easy

Yesterday Drama Talk & Drinks sat down for coffee with our friends on the Roll Over Easy show on BFF.fm to talk about the theater scene in SF.

rollovereasy-1400

What’s Roll Over Easy you ask?:

Roll Over Easy is a radio show that’s all about starting your day off right. We take you from under the covers to after coffee every Thursday morning, and along the way we’ll give you plenty of good tunes and fun conversation about the City you know and love. 

Our hope is that by the end each show you’ll be a bit more knowledgeable about San Francisco, and hopefully a bit more in love with it too. Our show takes place in a fictional diner and is made from one part us, one part you, and a dash of coffee.

So if you’re waking up next to your babe or if Muni is making you late for the 4th time this week, let Sequoia & The Early Bird serenade you with the sweet sounds of a proper San Francisco good morning. 

If you ever wondered what your DT&D writers sounded like in-person here’s your chance! Our interview begins roughly mid-way through the episode (at the 1:06 mark) – but give the whole show a listen for lots of SF love.

Drama Talk & Drinks: A Tale of Autumn – “A long philosophy lesson”

Bay Area Obie award-winning playwright Christopher Chen‘s latest work, A Tale of Autumn, just had its’ world premiere at Potrero Stage. One of DT&D favorite theater companies, Crowded Fire Theater, commissioned the work “a psychological rise-to-power fable”, so we knew we wanted to check it out for Drama Talk & Drinks.

Lawrence Radecker as Dave (left) and Shoresh Alaudini as Gil (right)  Photo by Cheshire Isaacs

Lawrence Radecker as Dave (left) and Shoresh Alaudini as Gil (right)
Photo by Cheshire Isaacs

Katie: What just happened? I was so excited for this show, and that was just…meh.

Brittany: I feel bad. For the first act I was like, “cool, I’m with you”. There were some good actors, a smart script exploring some cool concepts, but I wish it ended at the end of the first act. I mean, I know it didn’t make sense as an ending, but the whole second act felt like a long philosophy lesson. It totally lost momentum.

K: I agree, I just felt like the story could have been more concise. It was like we were being hit over the head with the concept that the ends can’t justify the means. Cool I get it. How is this helping to move the story along? There were a lot of words coming at me and it didn’t help me connect to the characters. A strong story is really important to me, without that I just stop caring.

B:  It wasn’t like the people in it weren’t talented, or the set wasn’t cool, the set was really cool. It was just over written. You can make a point without jamming it down people’s throats.

K: I agree. I don’t think I’ll be telling friends to run out and see this one, but I have for multiple other Crowded Fire shows. This is a piece that seems like it could use some work.

B: Love Crowded Fire though, they always do interesting, innovative work. This one was a bit too much like a lecture.

The Verdict:  If you are a Bay Area theater nerd, you should probably see it. Christopher Chen is a prominent local playwright, and this is the world premiere of his latest work. Otherwise, if you aren’t really into Bay Area theater and having your pulse on the local theater scene, this is probably one you can skip.

The Drama Talk: This is such a promising play, but needs some edits to live up to its potential.  There were lots of cool and smart things A Tale of Autumn explores  -  like what is the line between selfishness and self care, and should we as a society trust “benevolent” companies, but the story gets lost in the philosophizing in the second act. While this show has lots of bright moments, a cool set, and some great actors, it just collapsed under its own weight.

The Drinks: As always after a show at the Potrero Stage, we headed up the hill to Blooms for some drinks with a view.

A Tale of Autumn plays through October 7th at the Potrero Stage. Tickets range from $15-35 and can be purchased on their website. The company also offers the following discounts: Student Tickets are always $15! (Please bring i.d.). Seniors (65+), TBA/TCG Members: $3 off at checkout.Groups of 5 or more receive an automatic 15% savings at checkout

Drama Talk & Drinks: Taylor Mac A 24-Decade History of Popular Music – “WOW”

Ever since we got to see Taylor Mac perform a portion of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at Curran Under-Construction we couldn’t wait for the full show to come back. Last Friday the wait finally ended, and we got to see the first six hour chapter of the show at the Curran- covering the first six decades of American history from 1776-1836. It made for some unforgettable Drama Talk & Drinks.

Taylor Mac, photo by Teddy Wolf

Taylor Mac, photo by Teddy Wolf

Brittany: SIX HOURS!

Katie: Crazy, right! I was worried it was going to brutal, but it wasn’t at all. It went fast.

B: It went so fast! I was surprised every time an hour ended.

K: The pacing was so well done and deliberate. Taylor really thought about the human condition. The flow of it, and the strategic audience participation at just the right moments. The show moved. I didn’t feel tortured in any way, and when it was over it was like ‘Oh….WOW! ‘

B: I had some anxiety going into the show. The idea of going into a six hour performance that doesn’t have any intermissions is kind of daunting. I was worried about having to pee, getting tired, getting hungry, getting bored. All of those things were taken care of, so none of that was a problem. It would be very easy for them to just be like f*-you it’s performance art, you’re supposed to be uncomfortable, but it’s clear they really cared about taking care of the audience.

K: It was also just an amazing show. I loved it. So unique, so fun, so engaging.

B: I’ve never seen a show like it, so I can’t even go about comparing it. Taylor is an amazing performer, so expressive, such a fabulous voice.

K:  I feel like this show made performance art so accessible. From the way Taylor engaged with the audience and shared personal stories, to the amazing costume design by Machine Dazzle, to the more contemporary arrangements of these historical popular songs by Matt Ray, the whole show felt so deeply relevant. It was fabulous, irreverent, smart, intellectual, artsy, and still deeply human. I was able to connect to it. Not like other performance art I’ve seen that I’ve felt alienated from.

B: The Curran is such a big space too, and somehow they managed to create a really intimate experience. They did audience participation better than any show I’ve ever seen. Taylor even called it out,  that audience participation can be really uncomfortable. Somehow they managed to create a space where it was just fun. They kept pushing audience boundaries, asking us to do stranger more intimate things, and by the end it truly felt like the audience was part of a community and building the show together – which is an amazing thing to accomplish.

K: What an undertaking. I can’t even imagine there’s so much more of this show to go.

B: I know! I thought I would be done after six hours, but now I really want to go back and see the other nights. Especially the last two installments which will have more contemporary music I’m more familiar with. This show does such a clear-eyed job deconstructing the history of oppression in America, and it would be fascinating to see songs I know turned on their head.

The Verdict: Go see this show! It’s one of the most remarkable pieces of theater we’ve seen.

The Drama Talk: Taylor opens the show telling the audience this is a “radical fairy realness ritual” and there isn’t really a better way to define it. Part drag performance, part concert, part performance art, part history lesson this show can’t be put into a box. It was workshopped over three years, in various configurations in New York. Culminating last year in a 24-hour performance of the show in full at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse. This San Francisco production, a collaboration between the Curran, Magic Theater, Stanford Live, and Pomegranate Arts (Taylor’s home theater) is the first showing where they’ve broken the 24 hour show into four six-hour blocks (1776-1836, 1836-1896, 1896-1956 and 1959-present) and shown it in its entirety over multiple days. It’s a remarkable testament to the company’s talent that six hours felt like no time at all. Using popular music from each decade Taylor explores the history of America and the systemic oppression which has been foundational to our society. All of this is done with such heart and levity, that you don’t even realize how deep the content is until you leave the theater. A really remarkable performance that you should see if you can.

The Drinks: The Curran sells drinks and food throughout the show, which you can bring into the theater, so that’s what we did. Each night is different, but there was both food and drink handed out to the audience by the Dandy Minions during the performance we saw as well, so you will be well taken care of. Just remember to pace yourself. In one moment this show feels like a raunchy drag performance, in the next it’s tackling issues like racism and sexism, so you don’t want to be wasted and miss some of the really smart critiques this show has to offer.

The last two chapters of this show are this coming weekend, (September 22 & 24) so if you want a chance to experience this amazing performance you need to go now. Tickets range from $285 to supposedly $49, but the cheapest we could find for single ticket purchase remaining were $99 tickets. You can buy tickets through the Curran website.

Brittany Janis & Katie Cruz

Posts: 82

Twitter: @brittanymorgan

Biographical Info:

Brittany and Katie are theater lovers with a drinking habit. We love nothing more than seeing shows and telling you what we think about them over drinks. We both studied this stuff (woohoo theatre majors), so we have some idea what we're talking about, but most of all, we want to be brutally honest so you know when we tell you to go see a show, you really really should go see it. Seriously, turn off Netflix and go see some live entertainment!