Drama Talk & Drinks Preview: Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here.

Normally DT&D tries to take the guess work out of going to theatre in the Bay Area by providing brutally honest reviews of the shows we see. But we also don’t want you to miss out on what might be a very cool show, just because we haven’t had the chance to review it yet!

With only a two day run of Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here, a playwright-driven community action project created in collaboration with Z Space and the 1 Minute Play Festival, there’s no way we’d be able to review show before the run is over. Given what is currently happening in San Francisco (and even more rapidly the Mission), we thought you might want to see it anyway without our official endorsement.  To help inform your decision here are more details from the event description:

The drastic changes happening to the neighborhoods and communities in the Bay Area is quite staggering. I don’t think the national zeitgeist quite understands what’s happening here. San Francisco is becoming the most expensive city in the world, and it’s at the expense of everyone and everything that makes is special”, says 1MPF Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D’Andrea. Stressing that the work is designed a social “barometer” project to unearth connections in the zeitgeist via themes, ideas, and trends, D’Andrea says, “When we did our annual festival in partnership with playwrights foundation over the past two years, the topic of gentrification was so charged, so present, so immense, that we decided to come back to make an entire other project dedicated to digging into these topics, and what it means for the community. This is our artistic response to what’s happening. It’s part play festival, and part community action.

If that sounds as interesting to you as it did to us, you can check out Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here, this Saturday June 27th at 8PM and Sunday June 28th at 3PM and 7:30PM at Z Below (470 Florida Ave).  Tickets are $20 and available for purchase at http://zspace.org/new-work

We’re going Saturday night, so if you see us, say “hi!” Or if that’s too weird, just let us know what you thought of the show in the comments. Hope to see you at the theatre!

Drama Talks & Drinks: The Barbary Coast Revue – “If you are going to be corny you have be clever”

We love San Francisco, we love seeing new shows in the Mission, we love theater venues with full-bars, so when we heard about The Barbary Coast Revue at Balancoire we thought we’d love it. The description on the About page read: “Mark Twain delights with a riotous musical comedy sing along at THE BARBARY COAST REVUE…Set to parodies of Bay Area hits from the ’80s to now, THE BARBARY COAST REVUE is the new must see show for anyone seeking “the true history of San Francisco!”  So with high expectations for a night of anachronistic revelry, off we went for an evening of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Brittany: I just (sighs)…If you’re going to make the audience participate that much then you should almost have auditions for your audience. The leads had really good voices, but there were so many awkward drunk people that could not sing that it messed up the show for me. I know it’s supposed to be a sing-along, but really every single song? We don’t even know the lyrics!

Katie: Exactly! There were so many times I wanted to hear the lead female sing because she was so good, but I couldn’t. Also, if you’re going to take popular music and use the melodies then your lyrics and story have to be really clever, and I think they fell short. There were a couple moments when it worked, the Third Eye Blind “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” with En Vogue’s “My Lovin – You’re Never Gonna Get it” mash up was dope, but most of the time I don’t think they went far enough.

B: I like that it was an ode to San Francisco, but I agree, SF has a crazy history and the writers could have done more to make the show more relevant and creative. I think I only LOLed twice. I guess if you like Beach Blanket Babylon you would like this…but this didn’t have hats. Also, and I know this was opening night, but there were SO many technical errors. The spotlights didn’t turn on at the right time, the projections of the lyrics were off, which made it even harder for the audience to sing-along. Just lots of little things like that which made the show feel really messy. It runs all summer so I’m sure they’ll work out the kinks, but the bad tech was definitely distracting.

K: I’m really rooting for Balancoire, it’s such a cool space and I love that there’s good food and drinks and there’s a performance space… it just all didn’t come together for me.  If you are going to be that corny you have be more clever.

The Verdict: Cool venue. Talented singers. Mediocre writing. Bad tech. We go to theater to see talented people do creative things, not to be forced to sing weak lyrics to dated songs with a bunch of drunk people. People shouldn’t get away with sloppy theater like this, so unless this show tightens-up save your $29-$64.

The Drama Talk: The Barbary Coast Revue is supposed to be silly and fun, but the execution was lackluster. Maybe we’re the problem, and just aren’t ‘fun’ enough to look past the shows flaws and dive-in uninhibited. Much of the audience (mostly ages 40+) seemed elated to be the under rehearsed stars of the show – singing and doing the conga with the actors. It was just not our cup of tea. If the show was technically tighter, the actors more uniformly polished, and the audience participation less intensive we could have gotten past the weaknesses in the script, but despite some great individual performances (we’re looking at you Danny Kennedy, Stephanie Rapa and Michael Perez) we just felt awkward when we were accosted by actors at the end of the show asking “Did you enjoy it?”

The Drinks: We love going to performance venue’s with a full bar, so the show get’s points for that. We had their special cocktail called a “Shanghai Surprise”. The surprise was how good it was. Maybe we should of had a few more of those before the show to loosen us up for sloppy drunk karaoke theater.

The Barbary Coast Revue runs every Thursday at Balançoire. Tickets are available on their website and range from $29-$64. The more expensive ticket  gets you a private 7pm hors d’oeuvre reception with the cast, VIP reserved seating, and dinner during the show, all of which looked yummy.

[Previously]

Drama Talks & Drinks: Ondine – “Workout watching theatre”

We’d heard about epic productions of classics being done to rave reviews at Bay Area parks before, so when We Players latest show Ondine, staged at Sutro Baths, came to our attention we knew we had to check it out. Katie’s not much for the cold and wind, so Brittany and her boyfriend, Sam, donned their layers and took off for a cliff side afternoon of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Brittany: So what did you think?

Sam: There are too many words in the English language for me you to tell you what I think. I’m exhausted.

B: Me too, I enjoyed it though. Not necessarily my favorite script, which is surprising given my love for The Little Mermaid, but it was a really cool production.

S: I enjoyed being led through the forest. It’s fun to just give yourself over to the world of the play. The first act was great because it introduces you to that world, the second act was charming and funny and they give you snacks, but the third act got long.

B: Yeah, I was content listening to cool music and seeing beautiful stage pictures, when it tried to get into the drama it kind of lost me. They had to stick a lot of complicated fairy tale sadness into that final act.

S: That trial was no fun for anyone.

B: Despite the overly complicated ending, I still think its a good show. I’d tell people to see it.

S: Me too. Between the views, the amazing movement work, and a handful of really great actors, I think it’s totally worth it. Besides it’s not often you get a workout watching theater.

The Verdict: Put on your walking shoes, you’ll need them to check out this beautiful show. If you don’t like stairs, or cold, or sitting on the ground this play will make you pretty uncomfortable. If you love Sutro Baths, are game for walking up some hills, and like classical theater, we think you’ll enjoy this innovative production.

The Drama Talk: You can’t get a more beautiful set than Lands End and Sutro Baths. If you love this park, it’s really fun to fall into the world of the play and imagine that the water spirits walking the hills are real. It’s not surprising that Ondine is rarely produced, its not the greatest play. It’s a very long (the show is 3 hours) retelling of a simple fairy tale which is both predictable and unnecessarily complicated. We Players, however, does it beautifully. Ava Ray’s performance of Ondine was fierce and delightful. The chorus of women who played Ondine’s sisters were eerie and created some of the most striking stage pictures we’ve ever seen. Admittedly, we’re a sucker for place based immersive theater, but We Players also really knows how to do it.

The Drinks: The most convenient cocktails after the show can be found at Cliff House, but we were walking to the N Judah, so we opted for the always cozy Park Chalet for post-show drinks. We snagged a seat near their fireplace to warm up, ordered a flight of all their house-made brews, and toasted to an adventurous afternoon of cliff side theater.

Ondine has been extended through June 14th, with performances Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 4:30pm at Sutro Baths. When you get your tickets they send intensive instructions on what to prepare for (hiking and cold) so you’ll know what to do.  Tickets are $50-80 per-person and available through the We Players website, and are already almost entirely sold out. They give you fancy water and treats during the show too, so if really cool theater isn’t enough, there’s that.  Also if you really can’t afford it, they say to email them and they’ll see what they can do.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hookman – “What did that mean.”

Whenever there’s a world premiere in the Bay Area, DT&D wants to give you the scoop, so when we saw the press release for Encore Theatre Company’s latest production, Hookman, an “existential slasher comedy” by Lauren Yee at Z-Below, we knew we had to check it out. It’s the kind of play that makes you want to dissect it over drinks, so BEWARE potential spoilers below, or just skip to the verdict (spoiler: go see it).

Brittany: Soooo, was the whole thing a hallucination?

Katie: I don’t know! I kept going between this must be a dream, to wait no, this is really happening. When it was over I was like “Uhhh shoot, I didn’t get it.” Thank God you didn’t either, because I was feeling seriously stupid.

B: Me too! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, it went by really fast, it was super short…

K: Yeah, like an hour five.

B: And I was engaged the whole time, partially because I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening.

K: Yeah, I was definitely entertained, I just don’t know if I “got it”.  It was really funny at points, then it would get kind of dark and creepy, then in the final scene it gets really serious and sad for a second, but then really quickly gets back to being sort of funny creepy horror with Hookman playing with her phone.

B: Ok, here’s a guess, maybe the moment the first scene ended, and they were in the car crash, Lexi was knocked out or something, and the whole play is her psyche dealing with what just happened, and the phone call at the end is reality calling her back. Like she’s actually in the hospital or something and the phone call is her mom talking to her when she’s in a coma? Could that be it?

K: Maybe, I don’t if I’ve ever had an experience quite like this before, where I leave the show and really don’t know what happened.

B: Yeah, I don’t know…the staging was cool. Interesting lighting, and really creative design for such a small space. That thing at the end though really threw me for a loop, when that crazy girl came out and she was somehow dead too? It was like the little stinger added to make it even more confusing  “You may have thought this was all fake, but it wasn’t! But it was! Here’s some more stage blood! Curtain.”

K: Yeah what was that? Right now I’m sitting here going over the whole show in my mind thinking “what did that mean”.

B: There were definitely interesting and important themes, like what does social media do to us, how does violence and rape culture shape the way women have to interact with the world, how does a person cope with grief and guilt. I appreciated that they touched on all of that, while making it funny, scary and sad at the same time.

K: Yeah…I still just don’t get the ending. Someone seriously needs to go see the play and let us know in the comments section what actually happened. I know the directors notes say it’s supposed to be “hazy” but really this hazy?

The Verdict: The best theater not only entertains but makes you think. Hookman delivers on both fronts. It’s a little gory at parts (there’s quite a bit of stage blood spurted throughout), but as long as you can stand a little horror we think you’ll enjoy this show.

The Drama Talk: Hookman is the sort of show that you talk about to your friends three days after seeing it, because it’s such a mind-fuck. Playwright, Lauren Yee, adeptly explores themes of guilt, grief, belonging and violence against women all through the unlikely medium of a hilarious horror show about teenage girls. Encore creates an almost cinematic staging, with an impressive set for the Z-below space. The cast of supporting actors do a great job toeing the line between believably terrible teenagers and creepy other-worldly antagonists. While a heartfelt performance of Lexi, by Taylor Jones, keeps the show rooted a reality in which you can’t help but empathize with a teenage girl feeling isolated, scared and maybe guilty.

The Drinks: We always love checking out new-to-us places in the Mission, so we went to The Tradesmen nearby for post-show vino and snacks. We sipped rose and tried to wrap our heads around what we just saw, while banishing thoughts of Hookman lurking around the corner ready to strike.

Hookman runs through May 30th at Z-Below (the smaller basement theater at Z-Space). Tickets are available through the Z-Space website and range from $20-30, OR there’s currently super good deals on Goldstar starting at Comp-$15 tickets for select dates.

‘Heathers the Musical’ coming soon to the Victoria Theatre

To be clear:

Heathers: The Musical is the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, the brainy and beautiful misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. But before she can get comfortable atop the high school food chain, Veronica falls for the dangerously sexy new kid, J.D. When Heather Chandler, the Almighty, kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss Heather’s aerobicized ass…but J.D. has another plan for that bullet.

Tickets and lots more info here.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Max Understood – “Maybe he’s actually 18 and looks like he’s 8″

Last weekend we ventured out to Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater to see the premiere of Max Understood described as “The musical adventures of a precocious child with autism”. We love checking out new works because they always provide new and out-of-the-box approaches to story telling. This show definitely met that expectation.

Photo by Mark Palmer

Katie: I came into this show with high expectations since I’ve known of Nancy Carlin (the writer) for a long time and she does amazing work. The opening really grabbed my attention and I was like wow, this is going to be an in-your-face newschool type of musical. The minute the actors playing the parents came out I was taken out of it because they started acting and singing as if it was an old school musical. The transitions in those first few scenes were very awkward. I felt the world of this show didn’t have a strong foundation so the style seemed misplaced.

Brittany: I had really mixed feelings about the show too. I thought the design was really cool with the white set pieces being used for projections. Everything was very visually interesting. Definitely the sound design was awesome, really amazing surround sound. Having sound move across the stage and come from different areas is really neat. And they took advantage of the fact that the space can do that…which is cool.

K: The music of the whole show was amazing, and I agree, the sound design was maybe the best I’ve ever heard. However, some of the lyrics and melodies were kind of corny and didn’t really match the music and sound design for me.

B: The kid was ridiculously good. He was tiny and he was on stage the entire time and he was really acting. Not acting like a kid “acts” but was actually acting. I’ve never seen a kid have that big of role and pull it off. Maybe he’s actually 18 and looks like he’s 8 or something because that was crazy.

K: And his singing was also really good. Sweet and haunting, and so precious.

B: Yeah, and the parents…I think you hit it on the head in terms of when it started I was like okay, this is going to be a more straight forward musical about how parents cope with an autistic child. Then it wasn’t that and I was happy it wasn’t that because I don’t think that would have been as interesting. But I don’t feel they set up expectations in the right way. So when stuff started getting weird and we started getting in the autistic kid’s head I kept having a bunch of moments of  “what the hell is going on, are we in his head or not?” Maybe that’s part of the director’s intention, they want you to be questioning the strange things that are happening, but as an audience member I found that really jarring. It made it more difficult to sit through than if they had set it up right in the beginning. Obviously it’s hard to know what it’s like to be in an autistic child’s head so it was an interesting interpretation.

K: It was definitely interesting and I can take a little bit of experimental theater but there were moments I felt I was making this face…how would you describe this face I’m making? (Katie shows Brittany her face)

B: That’s a “What the fuck face”.

K: Yeah. There were also moments when I was thinking “Wow, this show sounds so cool, wow, that little boy is so good, wow, this set – I love the moving projections”.  So I kept bouncing between “Wow” and “WTF”.  For whatever reason, it’s so hard to put into words for me, I just felt disconnected and not fully invested in the story and not taken away. So that’s why I’m left feeling mixed.

 

The Verdict: If you have an open mind and if you can swallow a certain amount of experimental theater, this is good experimental theater to chew on. You will experience an innovative set and sound design and a very different kind of new play where you really don’t know what is reality and what isn’t, told through a very talented child actor. In fact, one of the most talented child actors we have ever seen. However, if the thought of experimental theater would make you want to shoot yourself in the foot – don’t go because you will shoot yourself in the foot.

The Drama Talk: This is a well produced, extremely interesting piece of experimental theater about autism. Autism is something people are starting to talk about a lot more so it’s nice to have theater contribute to the conversation and create narratives around it. It’s a really important conversation to be having. This isn’t a show that everyone would love, though. Being in an autistic kid’s head isn’t the most coherent or relaxing place to be and the story reflects that, which is most likely intentional. We did appreciate how the show didn’t overstay it’s welcome. It was 70 minutes with no intermission.

The Drinks: We are so happy that now there is an awesome bar at Fort Mason just down the way from the Cowell Theater called Interval. It’s a “bar, cafe, museum, and the home of The Long Now Foundation” and definitely worth checking out even if you don’t have a show to go to at Fort Mason. We both ordered from their fun list of specialty daiquiris, and were glad we did…so good!

Max Understood runs through this weekend at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater. Tickets are available through City Box Office for $30-$40. At the moment Goldstar also has tickets for sale for $13.50 – $21.25. Also, get to the show early so you can check out Sound Maze for Max: An Interactive Exhibit of Invented Instruments at the firehouse at Fort Mason Center, which will be on display from April 4th – May 3rd.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Book of Mormon – “Spooky Mormon Hell Dreams are for real!”

Three years ago when The Book of Mormon first went on tour, Katie, Brittany and two of our friends sat on computers from 11:30 until noon on the day tickets went on sale, so we could be the first in the online queue to get tickets to show. Tickets for that run sold out in less than two minutes, and we didn’t get any. Now, years later, we were finally given the opportunity to see Book of Mormon again (on the third time around). Katie had already gone to see it during the 2nd tour, but Brittany hadn’t yet. She asked one of the other friends from the fateful no-ticket day, who also just happens to have grown-up Mormon, to come to the show with her for some Drama Talk & Drinks at SHN’s Orpheum theater.

Brittany: So, as a person who grew up Mormon, what did you think?

Jose: It was really interesting, I really enjoyed the show. My favorite song was Turn It Off. It captures so well how Mormons deal with things, just bury the bad emotions. The whole beginning was so spot on for Mormon life. I knew kids like Elder Price. I also really appreciated the end message. That someone can make up stories, and adapt them to fit a lived experience, like Elder Cunningham did for the African tribe, and because it resonates with them and offers them hope, it can be gospel. I feel like that’s what Joseph Smith did, adapt the stories of the Bible to fit Americans, so this was just the next generation of that.

B: Yeah, I liked that too. It’s funny. I had high expectations 3 years ago, when the whole run was sold out and I didn’t get tickets. But now so many people have seen it, and have been sort of “meh” about it, I actually came in with somewhat low expectations, and they were blown out of the water, I was impressed.  I was worried I was maybe going to be too offended or something, even though I was a South Park fan in college so I don’t know why I thought that, but I liked that it had a positive message. Although a lot of it was South Park humor, poop jokes, sex jokes, whatever, it was smarter than I thought it might have been, and way more nuanced, which pleasantly surprised me. Sure it was offensive, jokes about AIDS and genital mutilation are shocking, but the fact it made us talk about those realities, even if it is through humor, is a net positive. It was way less negative on Mormonism and religion than I thought it might have been too. This is definitely the kinder side of South Park. It wasn’t as cynical as a I was worried it would be.

J: Yeah, I went in with the expectation it was going to be way more negative, but this did a good job recognizing some of the values of religion. I think I can see why the Mormon church doesn’t have big problems with it. That’s why they have an ad in the program advertising the actual Book of Mormon, it was offensive, but not in a hateful way.

B: Yeah. Of course, every time I see a tour at SHN, I’m impressed by the caliber of the actors, and sets, and design, and this is no exception. One thing I thought they did really well though was getting the cartoon like images to come to life in live action. The Spooky Mormon Hell Dream sequence was spot-on, it was so South Park and really funny.

J: Yes and I totally appreciated the idea behind that scene. Spooky Mormon Hell Dreams are for real. I grew up with those perfect Mormon kids, with their almost creepily happy families. I remember once at Mormon summer camp, it was super hot, so I got a Sunkist Orange Soda from a vending machine, because orange soda is usually caffeine free. But for whatever reason it wasn’t caffeine free, and one of the other kids saw it and started calling me “Sin-kissed’ because I was breaking one stupid rule. Some Mormons really are that crazy about rules, so hell dreams happen in Mormon kids childhood, you’re always wanting to break the rules, even though it terrifies you.

 

The Verdict: Not for kids, not for the easily offended, but otherwise go see it. It’s a delightful show. Not life changing, but really fun, and the message is way more hopeful than anticipated.

The Drama Talk: This show is heartfelt, and a little Disneyfied for South Park, but the less cynical bent makes the show more nuanced and, in our opinion, better. Perhaps they lose out on a few laughs by not going for every joke, but the sincerity made it more feel-good. Also the show is full of smart commentary on society if you care to look deep enough. Examining the way we tell ourselves stories: through religion, Sci-Fi, culture, and mythology. Also how we use those stories to cope with the problems we face as humans, is an interesting thread that’s explored throughout the show. Obviously a very talented cast, and super flashy set like any Broadway tour. Also an Ex-Mormon says the portrayal of Mormons is spot-on, so that’s got to be worth something.

The Drinks: After the show, we decided to check out The Beer Hall down the street. Jose got the Wells and Young Stout (like Brigham Young) and Brittany got a Prairie Artisan Wild Saison (you know because Mormons live on the prairie) and they toasted to a hilarious night of drama talk and drinks.

The Book of Mormon runs through June 1st at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets are available through SHN’s website for $80-$200. They are also doing a $29 ticket lottery for every show, so show up 2 ½ hours before any performance to try your luck at the drawing. Two tickets are available per winner. At the moment Goldstar also has tickets for sale for $75.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Head of Passes – “Bad things happen to good people”

At DT&D we love all theater, but we have a special place in our heart for new works. When Berkeley Rep invited us to a Represent night to see their production of Head of Passes, a new play by the “astonishingly gifted” (e.g. young and talented) playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for Katie, only Brittany was free, so she and her boyfriend Sam went out for a date night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce stars in the West Coast premiere of Head of Passes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

Brittany: Did you like it?

Sam: I did. I feel like everyone in the play was made to represent one of the deadly sins. The son that was obsessed with how they would look to their church friends, Aubrey (Francois Battiste) was pride. The other son, Spencer (Brian Tyree Henry), was sloth. Cookie (Nikkole Salter) was…maybe gluttony…or greed. She was greed, she stole that stuff.

B: But the reason she stole stuff was for drugs which she was driven to because she was molested as a child.

S: Okay fair, but it’s still partially greed. And I guess the dead father is lust. And then the friends…

B: I don’t know if they’re really supposed to be the seven deadly sins. They’re just all imperfect people.

S: Maybe, but the guy, umm Creaker, he was anger. The doctor and Mae were gluttony since they drank all the booze. I don’t know who was envy…maybe Mae was envy.

B: I mean maybe, the play is definitely based in the Bible, but the characters were all too complex to just be emblematic of one sin. It’s a contemporary retelling of the story of Job, just set in coastal Louisiana. In Job people weren’t killed because they were sinful. God was testing Job’s faith. That’s part of what makes the story so tragic. Bad things happen to good people.

S: They didn’t teach Job in my Hebrew school.

B: Probably because it’s such a hard story. No one wants to hear that no matter how good you are, or faithful you are, or whatever, God will still test you and shit will happen.

S: Well the set was fantastic, it was one of the best sets I’ve seen in my life.

B: I really liked the first act. They really captured the cacophony of family drama. The second act was hard though. That final soliloquy is long and intense, and since the actress (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) had to call “line” a few times it lost some momentum.

S: In the pre-show talk the playwright said he added like 100 new pages to the script in the last two weeks. I can’t memorize 10 pages in two weeks, I was impressed she stayed in the moment as well as she did.

B: Definitely, the actress who played Shelah was amazingly talented, but having a prompters voice reading the line flat breaks the momentum no matter what. It was the biggest problem I had with the show. I feel like everyone in the audience was over it by the end. It’s like the Monty Python joke “I’m not dead yet.” She was supposed to die, and it just kept going as the house was crumbling around her.

S: But that was amazing, the set falling apart, and the water. Such cool staging.

B: I agree, but when I went to the bathroom I overheard someone else saying, “Thank God she finally died.” It’s a good show, I really enjoyed it, but the second act needs tightening.

The Verdict: Head of Passes is a promising new work. As always Berkeley Rep has extremely talented actors and designers. Go if nothing else to see a really cool set and well thought out design. By the end of the run (May 24th) it’s going to be great, but give the actors a week to work out the kinks of last minute additions to the script. Be prepared for an emotional night, if that final monologue is done to its full potential there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

The Drama Talk: Seriously, the set is dope. There’s lots and lots of water on stage which makes for really beautiful pictures and interesting sound effects. The show has the intimacy of a living room drama, the epic-ness of a Shakespearean tragedy, and the magical realism of a Kushner all rolled into one. This is only the second time this play has been staged (it was conceived and first performed at Steppenwolf in Chicago, the playwrights home theater), and there are still some kinks particularly in the second act, but McCraney is definitely a playwright to watch. The actors are all extremely talented, particularly Cheryl Lynn Bruce who play Shelah. She has the unenviable task of performing most of the second act alone with one of the most intense monologues we’ve seen in recent memory.

The Drinks: Berkeley Rep has a bar in the theater and since it was opening night they gave us passes for half-off drinks. Who can say no to half-off wine? We got our glasses and went over to the lobby of the proscenium theater and watched the final 15 minutes of Tartuffe on the monitor. One and ¼ of a Berkeley Rep show and half off drinks, not a bad date night.

Head of Passes runs through May 24th on Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage. Tickets are $29-$79 and available through Berkeley Rep’s website. If you’re still under the age of 30 half price tickets are also available for most performances. Those can also be booked online, but you’ll need to show an ID with proof of age to pick up your tickets.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: It’s not called fetish theater for nothing

Last Halloween Drama Talk and Drinks reviewed one of the most unique and crazy fun shows we’d been to, Thrillpeddlers’ annual Shocktoberfest. Since Brittany had so much fun at that show, she had to bring Katie back to share in the scintillating fun. We headed to the well hidden Hypnodrome to see the Thrillpeddlers latest production, Jewels Of Paris, for a night of naughty drama talk and drinks.

 

Photo by David Wilson.

Brittany: So that was different.

Katie: Very different. Very San Francisco. What I really liked about it was that it’s true community theater. People just coming together to put on a show because it’s fun.

B: They want to get out there and express their crazy selves in front of an audience and have a good time, which you could tell they did. The writing was also quite smart. If you don’t have a basic understanding of artists that were coming up in Paris in the early 20th century you wouldn’t get all the jokes and references though.

K: I didn’t get many of the references so I got uninterested at times, but most of the time there was so much happening between the singing, costumes, makeup, and nudity that I would get reinterested. It’s cool to see something so visually different. Also, I really loved the sad clown (Birdie Bob-Watt) .

B: I felt like they kinda got tied up in the “we’re doing a show about Paris” concept, trying to cover so much and be so smart, they lost some of the fun. The times when they tried to be more serious didn’t really work for me. There were a few actors that had solos that had trouble carrying a tune. But they went for it, and often naked, so props to them. I couldn’t do that. I love that the audiences at this show always get invested with hoots, hollers and claps even if things aren’t going perfectly. It really gives the feeling that we’re all in this together to have a good time.

K: What an interesting venue too. You enter through a parking lot to a back of a building. I pass this building almost everyday and had no idea that there was this theater behind it. Inside is very eclectic. Next time we go I want to get one of the decorated booths in the back, those were neat.

B: Both times I’ve gone to the Hypnodrome I thought I was lost until I walk into the theater.

K: Overall it was precious, but for me they didn’t bring it home. I would really love to see them do something else.

B: I would definitely recommend going to a Thrillpeddlers show, however, I don’t think this is their best work. I enjoyed it, but if you’re only going to see one show, don’t make this your first impression, I think they can do better.

The Verdict: Thrillpeddlers are a sexy uniquely San Francisco theater company. It’s not called fetish theater for nothing, this is for mature audiences only, which is part of what makes it so fun. Although the writing of Jewels Of Paris is very smart, you may miss some references if you don’t have a general grasp of the history of the Paris arts scene. This show shines when it’s at its raunchiest and silliest, but some weak singers and more serious scenes can make the show lose momentum. It’s an enjoyable night, but not quite Thrillpeddlers at it’s best.

The Drama Talk: For mature audiences only. There are penis, boobs, asses – basically all anatomy is exposed at some point, so be prepared to see it all. Don’t go in expecting everyone in the show to be professionally trained or a knockout singer. Some of the cast is very talented, but what some actors lack in training they make up for in heart and willingness to put themselves out there. The costumes and props are very impressive. The writing is smart, and some of the songs are quite catchy. The whole show is written in house making the sketches and songs all the more impressive.

The Drinks: After the show we headed over to 11th for drinks. If you want to keep the raunchy fun going you can always hit up DNA lounge. Or if you’re looking for a more divey party there’s Butter. We were hoping for some quiet cocktails, and since it sounded French we thought we’d try Bergerac. We couldn’t hear ourselves talk over the bizarrely loud DJ, so we bailed and went to Bar Agricole. Brittany got a Tulip and Katie got a Presidente and we enjoyed a classy and quiet drink to wind down the evening.

JEWELS OF PARIS: A Revolutionary New Musical Revue runs through May 2nd at the Hypnodrome Theater. Tickets are $30 gen. admission or $35 for Front Row Seats, “Shock Boxes” and “Turkish Lounges” and can be purchased on their website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

Brittany had to go out of town for work so she couldn’t go with me to see Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, produced by Crowded Fire Theater at the Thick House, which is the first show of their 2015 season. It’s a bummer because I really think Brittany would have liked it. I mean a story about how a brother and sister deal with the loss of their mother and being neglected by their father along with the complications that two teenage boys go through due to becoming more than friends, that is told in a humorous, honest, and touching way – definitely a Brittany show.

http://www.crowdedfire.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Edith_trioV.jpg

 

The Verdict: This was a refreshing piece of theater! It’s a story I haven’t seen done like this. If you enjoy heart warming, edgy stories that also make you laugh, this is a good time to check out Crowded Fire Theater. I have to admit this play had me almost moved to tears while smiling out loud.

The Drama Talk: It was well produced, with a simple, yet clear, set and the director used the space well. The 3 young characters, though played by adults, were well developed and you really care about them. The actor who played Benji (Maro Guevara) was so good I would swear he wasn’t acting, that it must just be who he is in real life.  I would say however, I didn’t leave wanting more because the show felt a little long.

 

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them runs through March 21st at Crowded Fire Theater. Tickets are currently available on Goldstar for $10 dollars for this weekend. You can also get tickets directly from their website.

(Maro Guevara, Nicole Javier, and Wes Gabrillo)

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs