Drama Talk & Drinks: Sketchfest “you just gotta take a chance”

Sketchfest is upon us! The time of year when all our favorite comedians descend on the Bay Area for three weeks of merriment. Ariel, our DT&D editor, and Sam, Brittany’s boyfriend, are big fans of the 90s American sitcom, NewsRadio so we decided to check out the NewsRadio reunion show as our first foray into Sketchfest 2015.

Brittany: I like Newsradio, but I don’t think I’m as big of fans as either of you are.

Ariel: When I was in college I obtained raw footage from an entire NewsRadio episode to cut my own episode. And it’s really interesting, when they talked about the musicality of the entrances and exits, for a 3 or 4 camera show it was really hard to cut. You’d imagine for a multi-camera show you can just cut back and forth, but it was so carefully orchestrated, that you couldn’t really cut it a new way. I feel like they took the Kramer entrance from Seinfeld and applied that to the whole show.

B: I was disappointed that there weren’t more cast members there, but I think you still got a sense of what it was like to be on the show.

A: I was bummed that Maura Tierney wasn’t there.

Sam: Vicki Lewis too. I loved Vicki.

A: Maura Tierney to me, maybe because I had a crush on her, she was the heart of the show to me. She was stuck in a world of bumbling cartoon characters.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “I wish she was my grandma…”

If you have grandparents who loved Murder, She Wrote marathons, or if you grew up with an affinity for singing teapots, you can’t help but have a special place in your heart for Angela Lansbury. Who else can make murdering people and cooking them into pies sound so sweet? So, when we heard that at age 89 she was doing a super-limited North American tour of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, we knew we had to see it. So, off we went to SHN’s Golden Gate Theater for a night of laughs, drama talk and drinks.

Katie: Go fucking see this show!

Brittany: IT WAS SO GOOD!

K: If you’re going to throw down some money on a really fun, twists and turns, old-school, straight-play comedy, THIS is where you should put your money, people.

B: It was amazing, and Angela Lansbury is the most adorable, wonderfulest person. I wish she was my grandma. I mean I love my grandmas, but I’d take her as my third grandma any day.

K: Be prepared though, because every time she walks on stage people love her so much they can’t stop clapping. Which was annoying, but I get it.

B: She walks on stage and all you want to do is give her a hug. You can’t take your eyes off her, she’s that talented. Everyone in this show is really talented, but she is exceptionally talented.

K: This is one of the few shows I’d say don’t have a drink before, because you don’t want to miss a thing. It starts off with a lot of British fast wit, and you want to be able to follow it, because it’s hilarious. What I really loved about his play is it wasn’t predictable.

B: There’s a reason some plays survive the test of time. This was written in the 1940s, and it’s still so funny.

The Verdict: If you have the money, or if you don’t have the money go find some money and then see this show. When you aren’t mesmerized by what’s happening on stage, you’re hoping that the scene change doesn’t mean the play is over, because you want it to keep going for another hour. One of the best shows we’ve ever reviewed.

The Drama Talk: The best actors are the ones who you can tell absolutely love performing, and you can tell Angela Lansbury loves being on stage. It’s no wonder she won a Tony for this role. She is phenomenal; you can’t help but watch her and love her. This is a quick, smart, witty play, but with enough darkness and occult elements (it’s a comedy about ghosts) that it doesn’t get saccharine. All the actors are great. With a play this fast you need a tight cast, and they are tight. It’s a national tour, so of course the set and design are top notch. As delightful as this show was, perhaps the most endearing part is watching Angela beam at her curtain call. She really is one of the greats. Don’t miss this chance to see her perform.

The Drinks: We had rock-star parking near the Golden Gate, so we decided to stay nearby and go to The Showdown across the street for drinks. It’s an “Urban DJ Saloon” so, as promised, there was a DJ spinning and an open-mic hip-hop show happening. It was hard to hear yourself over the music, but the drinks were strong and good. Brittany got a martini (since those are the drinks they open the show drinking) and Katie got a gin and tonic, and we yelled excitedly over the DJ about what an awesome show we had just seen.

Blithe Spirit runs through February 1st at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater. At the time of writing, SHN’s website was showing the error “We are currently experiencing high demand for tickets. Please check again shortly.” Since price is variable based on demand, these aren’t going to be cheap tickets. If any are still available you can get yours on SHN’s website. As of right now there are also tickets available on Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Shit & Champagne

There’s a new LGBTQ space in town, hallelujah. Brittany & Katie checked it out, here’s their report:

We have been hearing a lot about gay bars closing (Most recently The Lexington and Esta Noche) as well as a lot about the lack of mid-size performance venues. Well, we have some good news! A gay bar that is also a performance venue has just opened. It’s called Oasis and it’s a new 6,000 square foot theater / cabaret / nightclub hosted by Heklina and D’Arcy Drollinger located on Folsom Street in the SOMA district. We first got wind of this from D’Arcy himself when we interviewed him about his last show back in June, so we were very excited to check out his new show Shit & Champagne: A Whitesploitation Comedy with Dance at his new venue.

Katie: The venue is great and being there on opening night of their first performance at the venue was so fun. The energy and excitement around it all felt really special, you could feel how important it was for the people who were there.

Brittany: Yeah, the venue was amazing. Loved the cabaret style seating and the table service. It was really fun.

K: It was also refreshing to go to a show that was interactive and casual but still a formal scripted play, you really felt part of it. The thing is, it was too . . . what’s the word?

B: Campy.

K: Yes! And I’m just not a campy girl. Never been a campy, slap sticky, Austin Powers, poop humor, kind of girl.

B: Looking at the trailer for this, it’s campy as hell. It’s meant to be tongue and cheek slap stick and it delivered on that. That doesn’t mean it’s a great piece of theater. But everyone there was having a great time. There were moments I was laughing and there were performances I thought were great. D’Arcy (who wrote, directed and starred in the show) is just a delightful person. And when he’s onstage you can’t help but like him and enjoy watching him even if you don’t really follow what’s going on.

K: Maybe what could have helped us follow it better is having a couple of drinks before the show . . .

The Verdict:

The Venue: Awesome. If you don’t check out this show definitely go and check out their wide array of entertainment.

The Show: It’s drag meets the Three Stooges meets Austin Powers. Lots of really pun-ny sex jokes and cheap digs. Some of it was smart and clever, but you have to like camp.

The Drama Talk: Not great writing…maybe it’s really good writing for a campy, sexploitation, white comedy, drag show…but its not a traditional play. So don’t expect a play with a well developed plot or deep characters.

The Drinks: The Oasis has two bars as well as table service, so getting drinks is very easy. The drinks were basic, but good and well priced. We suggest getting there a little early and having one or two before the show starts.

Shit & Champagne runs through February 14th at Oasis and tickets are available at the website. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. There are also a limited amount of tickets available on Goldstar for $12.50.

Your Drama Talk & Drinks Holiday Guide

Here at DT&D we feel like every season is a good season to see theater. But the holiday season, with the relative cold, rain and staycation days, is perfect for getting into some cozy theaters. Katie & Brittany suggest some local shows that you might want to check out. Here’s their report:


[file photo by me]

From gin & tonicah Hanukkah fetes, to ugly sweater parties, to awkward office eggnog-a-thons, your calendar may already be booked through 2015. But for those of you who are looking for a theater fix, or to find a family friendly outing while people are in town, we didn’t want to leave you hanging. Although we normally don’t recommend shows without prior viewing, with holiday parties and cold and flu season upon us, we just didn’t have time to see everything. But that’s no reason for you to miss out. So without further ado, here’s our round-up of what caught our eye this holiday season that we didn’t get to see.

Looking for laughs?

A Merry Forking Christmas
PianoFight’s brand-spanking-new-Kickstarter-funded venue is opening this week! The first show to pop the champagne on its main stage is A Merry Forking Christmas, their reliably funny choose-your-own-adventure holiday sketch show. Go check out PianoFight’s new digs, try their new bar, and forget about your holiday stress. From the mouths of marketers:

The Holidays are the most magical time of the year, unless you’re stuck in the mall on Christmas Eve. PianoFight’s A Merry FORKING! Christmas chronicles the final hours of the Christmas shopping frenzy through the eyes of a pot-dealing Santa and his cookie-stand partner in crime, a mall security guard on his last legs, a bride-to-be deserted by her would-be fiancé, and a bored mortician who’s got nothing to do until people get back to the business of dying once the holidays have ended. The fates of these five characters and whether Christmas can be saved for each is left up to the audience who will vote at crucial forks in the plot to determine the final outcome. This December, with 362,880 possible paths through the show, saving Christmas is up to you. Get your tickets here.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Kinky Boots – “In a way it was crazy impressive”

SF “fun” fact: Lena Hall, who originated the role of Nicola in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, was in my high school class at School of the Arts, back when it was still behind SF State University. So she’s there, and I’m typing this, so obviously we are both shining our bright lights. Anyway, enough about me, Katie & Brittany checked out the local production of Kinky Boots last week, their reactions split down the middle. Here’s their review:

When it’s rainy in SF it’s a challenge just getting out of the house. But when presented with the opportunity for drag queens, fabulous boots, and a night out at The Orpheum, it’s hard to say no. So we braved the monsoon to go see SHN’s latest tour, Kinky Boots.

Katie: I hate to say it, but I’m a little disappointed. Going into this show all I knew was that Cyndi Lauper wrote the music, it won the Tony, and there were drag queens and boots involved. But given Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTQ advocacy, I thought it was going to have more substance and innovation. I guess I was expecting something more like Rent, but with fancier shoes and a few more drag queens. I came in hoping for cutting edge musical theater that would entertain you and make you think. All that kind of bullshit I love. This was just a little forced.

Brittany: That’s so funny. I had the exactly opposite reaction. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I was going to like this show because I had a feeling it was going to be way too fluffy, but it was actually a bit deeper than I thought it might be. I mean it’s a show about shoes, but there were moments.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “If Paris Hilton could play Roxie Hart we’d be set for life” – CHICAGO

Katie was out of town, so I got to go with Brittany to SHN’s Chicago tour. I’m a big fan of musicals, and I think more people would be if they gave them a chance. Chicago is a great entry point, with its relentless energy, dark humor, sexy style and classic Fosse pizazz. This cast was great and the show was a whole lot of fun. If you really need another nudge, Seinfeld‘s J. Peterman (John O’Hurley) has awesome personality as Billy Flynn, and of course, Bianca Marroquin is amazing as Roxie. Here’s Brittany’s report:

[via SHN]

Thanks to the 2002 film version of the Broadway classic Chicago most people have an idea where they stand when it comes to this play. Since Broadway touring casts tend to be pretty uniformly great, we thought rather than do a normal Drama Talk & Drinks review of the show, we’d go backstage and give you some insights into why you might want to see this current production in particular, now open at SHN’s Orpheum Theater until November 16th.

After a quick backstage tour, we sat down with Christophe Caballero, swing and understudy for Mary Sunshine, and Adam Pellegrine, who plays Harry, Martin Harrison, and is part of the ensemble, to talk about what it’s like to perform in SF and what’s special about this current production of Chicago. Skip to the end if you want our quick and dirty assessment of the show, but Adam and Christophe had some fun things to say.

Brittany: What’s it like to perform for a San Francisco audience?

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Party People – “I certainly couldn’t dance like that”

Fortunately for all of us, theater is alive and well in the Bay Area. Between some great shows and inspiring conversations, Drama Talk & Drinks is seeming more and more hopeful for lively, challenging and engaging performance around here. I dunno about you, but I am feeling jazzed to get out and see some theater. More on that soon. In the meantime, Brittany and her boyfriend took his mom to Berkeley Rep to see their new show, Party People. Here’s their report:

[(l to r) Christopher Livingston (Malik), Steven Sapp (Omar), and Reggie D. White (Solias) perform in UNIVERSES’ Party People, a high-wattage fusion of story and song that unlocks the legacy of the Black Panthers and Young Lords at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com]

When parents visit, finding events with reasonable decibel levels can sometimes be a challenge. So when Brittany’s SO’s Mom was in town, they decided to treat her to a night at one of the best theaters in the Bay Area, Berkeley Rep, to see their current show Party People. Since the play is partially about fostering intergenerational dialogue, we figured why not do a Drama Talk & Drinks Parent-Visit edition!

Brittany: One of the biggest problems with the current theatre scene, at least in my opinion, is it tends to play it too safe and fall back on what’s already been done. We see so many revivals and classics being remounted, and even with new plays lots of topics have been revisited ad nauseum. There’s definitely something to be said for timeless theater, but it’s hard to stay relevant without taking some risks. This play takes risks.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “There aren’t a lot of black people left in San Francisco”

Katie & Brittany sat down with Eric Reid, who is starting a new theater company aimed at providing meaningful roles for people of color. Which is awesome. SF has a real diversity problem. Specifically, the African American population is disappearing. And there is far too little effort being made to address this. Eric missed a World Series game to talk with them, so the least you could do is look at his flyer (below), which is also awesome. Here’s their report:

A press release came across our inbox about a new-to-us theater company called Theatre Madcap that was doing a “deliberately diverse” production of True West. Even though we knew we couldn’t make the show to review it, we were intrigued. So we asked the Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Eric Reid, to coffee to tell us about his company and his show.

Katie: Tell us about Theatre Madcap.

Eric: We started it, my wife and I that is, about 2 and a half years ago. We started it really because as a black actor I’m frustrated that I can’t find a lot of roles for myself, or If I’m auditioning for something it’s always “ethnicity ambiguous” roles, nothing really for black folks or persons of color at all. So I thought if it’s going to be hard to be in theater, I might as well do it myself and struggle for moi.

Brittany: What have you been working on so far?

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Drama Talk & Drinks: SO MUCH BLOOD!

Katie was busy, so Brittany brought a friend from the theatre world to a crazy, bloody, sexy, puppety show that sounds like a lot of fun. Here’s their report:

Katie is a bit of a buzz-kill when it comes to Halloween (sorry Katie). She hates dressing up, doesn’t like scary movies and gore makes her queasy. Brittany, on the other hand, has her requisite costume box in the closet and grew up on Tales From The Crypt. So when we got the press release about Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutant and Katie was busy, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to call in our friend Michael St. Clair, a lecturer in the Theater and Performance Studies department at Stanford who’s been known to wear a costume even outside of Halloween reverie, to come along and review the show.

Brittany: So Michael, for your introductory Drama Talk & Drinks review, what did you think about the show?

Michael: It was brilliant. It was at least 50% more fun than I expected it to be.

B: That was, in my opinion, absolutely delightful.

M: If you don’t like comedy/sex/violence, or lots of gore, of fake blood, or demon summoning, or things flying in your face, it’s not the show for you. But if you like those things . . .

B: And like kinky fetish stuff . . .

M: Spiced up with a bucket of blood and terrible things . . .

B: SO MUCH BLOOD!

M: . . . Then you’ll love it.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Are you okay with tangents?

Last month I saw Old Hats at ACT. Bill Irwin is amazing. It was a really fun show, but I think that title would keep younger audiences away. If the theatre wants to get a new generation coming out, and they need to, they should really adopt a more modern naming convention, as this does this column. Katie & Brittany recently saw The Late Wedding, and while the title may not get you out of your chair, they say the play is worth it. Here’s their report:

[photo by Pak Han]

About a year ago Katie read a play called The Hundred Flowers Project by Christopher Chen in Theatre Bay Area magazine. She liked it so much she told Brittany “Whenever another Christopher Chen play is produced, we need to go”. That time arrived. Crowded Fire Theater Company commissioned the world premiere of Chen’s new work, The Late Wedding, and it’s now playing at The Thick House.

Katie: I really enjoyed the freshness of the format and devices Chen used. It really brought the audience into the story, and I liked that. I thought the staging was really neat, and the set was awesome. It was so inventive and the use of the space was creative, just that alone is worth seeing.

Brittany: I was continuously interested. At times I felt like the play was throwing me around, but it was fun how the playwright acknowledged it. I loved the asides to the audience, where they said, “That was weird huh, this is why” or “Relax and just go with it”. In the opening monologue we’re told to “trust the play and let it take you somewhere”, so after that I was open to it taking me anywhere, even though I didn’t always know where it was going.

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