The Dark Room is closing

Capp Street Crap reports:

Over the weekend, The Dark Room announced via its Facebook page that it will cease operations at the end of August. A follow-up comment posted this morning says that closing was a business decision and not because they lost the space. Home to standup comedy and Bad Movie Night screenings, The Dark Room’s announcement comes less than two weeks after another Mission Street venue, nearby gallery and all-ages music space Sub-Mission, shut down.

Read on for the full text of the announcement.

[Photo by Google Maps]

Drama Talk & Drinks: Project Ahab – “We are so close to you”

We are all about going on adventures. Going to Berkeley to see a show described as “A new musical about how a band of hippies, mystics and visionaries changed the world” at a historic venue known as the “little castle” definitely qualified. So this weekend DT&D saw Project Ahab; or, Eye of the Whale, which is Central Works 48th world premiere (Central Works only does world premieres so that racks up the numbers).

Photo by J. Norrena


Brittany: When I saw the description that it was a musical I was a little bit like “Okay, so this is like an environmentalist musical? I guess that worked for Hair?” but I was worried it was going to be kind of weird. I actually thought that the way they used music worked really well.

Katie: Some of the songs for me were really nice. The female leads were wonderful singers!

B: They did a good job with their use of AV too. It was really cool when she took a picture that it showed up as a projection.That was a really neat way to put us in a very different space.

K: The only problem was they trained us that when she took a picture, and we heard that clicking sound, a projection would show up. They would put up the projection a few times, but then they’d keep taking pictures but stop putting up the projection. I started watching the audience look after every time they heard that click, and then nothing would be there and people looked disappointed. I know I was.

B: Yeah I wish they either showed photos each time she clicked the camera or just left a photo up there if they thought it was too distracting to keep switching them.

K: The other thing that I struggled with, was their wordy monologues. I got lost. I am sure part of it was where we were sitting. They didn’t do a great job blocking for a thrust stage. There were so many times they had their back to us and we couldn’t see them, or they were blocked by another actor. It’s general admission too, so you can’t guarantee where you are going to sit unless you get there early.

B: I felt the same. They would get lost in their own monologues. The songs would move it along, and the interactions would move it along, but when a monologue started they would hit a wall. They’d go on a tangent about the clouds, and stars, and whales, which was beautiful, but it made the show lose momentum.

K: The only person that made a strong connection with other characters was Cree (Sam Jackson). There were a few scenes with her that really sucked me in. Cree was my favorite. So natural. She wasn’t up there acting at us. She was reacting to what was happening around her.

B: I would watch her in a play all day.

K: One thing they did that really “get my goat”, as they say, was the extreme slow motion fight scene. I mean, we are right here. We are so close to you. I thought they were joking at first.

B: Yeah, that was awkward . . . but with that said, I was never bored and there was actually a lot I enjoyed.

The Verdict: Do you happen to be going to Berkeley in the next few weeks and want to go to a castle like venue built in 1927 and see a world premiere of an innovative folksy musical? We found the adventure for you! If you answered no to that question, then we say this isn’t quite worth the trip. This piece had some great moments, and it was an interesting venue, but still has some kinks to work out.

The Drama Talk: This is the environmentalist musical version of Moby Dick. Instead of going after a whale, they are going after a whaling ship. Moby Dick is a hard book because it’s long and poetic. It allows itself very flowery, super descriptive, long asides. Given the fact that the playwright borrows heavily from the book’s plot, we assume they were going for similar flourishes of language as well. However, there is a reason that a lot of people don’t read Moby Dick. Melville’s musings can lose people. The actors were so involved with the language and what was going on with their own characters that they weren’t connecting with the other actors on stage. It felt like they were acting at each other instead of with each other.

The Drinks: The venue is in the middle of Berkeley-college-kid-central. To avoid the college night life, like the 30 year old curmudgeons we are, we went to an old hotel bar called Henry’s a couple of blocks away. It was a perfect place to debrief, since it had mostly people over the age of 40 and plenty of open tables. Stick to beer or wine though, the bartender had to look up how to make a Moscow mule. If you want to get crazy with the college kids, we saw them all going into Kipps.

Project Ahab; Or Eye of the Whale runs through August 23rd at Central works in the Berkeley City Club. Tickets are available on the Central Works website for $28. Tickets at the door can be purchased for $15-28 sliding scale. Pay what you can nights are every Thursday.

Drama Talks & Drinks: Matilda – “What the hell was my childhood?!”

Roald Dahl’s works are often shelved in the Children’s section of the library, but in reality Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryMatilda, and James and the Giant Peach, are all pretty dark compared to traditional kid-fare. (Who wasn’t a little scarred by Willy Wonka’s chocolate river tunnel boat ride horror show?) Though part of our initial excitement about getting to see Matilda, the tour of the Broadway musical adaptation of the Dahl classic which is now playing at SHN’s Orpheum Theater, should be attributed to childhood nostalgia, we were also excited to see how the show succeeded in being a hit with adults too. So off we went for a night of Drama Talk, Drinks and ICE CREAM (Humphry Slocombe previewed a new-Matilda inspired flavor at opening, it was delicious and will supposedly now be available with a limited run a local shops, go get your sugar rush on)!

Katie: So many kids in this show! Extremely well trained, talented kids! And they looked like they were like 8! Knowing how much goes into being in a national tour of a Broadway show, I wondered what it must be like for them to have such an unconventional childhood. Well, really not have a childhood. What will these kids be like at 18?

Brittany: They will either decide they don’t want to act anymore, and say what the hell was my childhood?! Or end up like Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus, so pissed off that they didn’t have a childhood they start licking random shit.

K: Hmm… well the plus side is they made the show so cute.

B: It was so cute! And so clever.

K: It was like watching a cartoon as a live musical. With how Mrs. Trunchbull was played by a man and wearing the exact costume from the book, all of the special effects, to the jerky, unnatural choreography and not to mention the swinging a kid by her braids.

B: I can’t believe they were able to pull that off. How did they even do that?! And the actor that played Mr. Wormwood was so old school vaudeville. Like the way he did takes and kicks in every single one of his exits was really cartoony. He was amazing.

K: He was great! So was the male actor that played Mrs. Trunchbull.

B: Sometimes when you have a guy play a female character and it’s like the fat women who is bad or crazy it comes off as weird and rubs me wrong. But this was done in a very tasteful way. Overall, I didn’t think it was going to be as dark and scary as it was. As an adult that made me really like it. It was a surprisingly biting critique of contemporary culture, everybody just cares about being loud. It felt like the song call “Telly” was a critique of Fox News.

K: Or reality TV. I felt like a lot of the message was lets not put so much weight on being the prettiest and the loudest, let’s care more about being kind and informed.

B: Yeah, I liked how the show really critiqued the way society so often tells people “Don’t be smart. Be pretty.” “We don’t need substance just a hundred and forty characters will do”.(She points to the Twitter office above us)

The Verdict: You don’t need to like musicals to like this show, it’s so fun and clever. If you hate: light hearted fun, talented kids, smiling, confetti, dark cartoons, swings and english accents you will hate this show. Otherwise, GO GET YOUR TICKETS, it was smart, dark and delightful.

The Drama Talk: This show was nominated for Best Musical, and won Best Set Design and Costume Design for a reason. It is such a refreshing take on a classic story that even though we have all seen the movie, this adaptation still surprises and does not disappoint.

The Drinks: After over two years of DT&D we have been to nearly all the bars in a two block radius of the Orpheum, so we were excited to see that a new bar/restaurant called Dirty Water opened opened on 10th and Market…Yep, inside the Twitter building. We were intrigued, but skeptical. We walked up to the door off of Market, but it was locked. We went around and entered through the alley off of 10th St. As you enter, you question if you are still in San Francisco… but after a chat with the very nice and knowledgeable bartender who makes you the best cocktails you ever had, skepticism quickly makes way for fandom. Brittany had the Long Strange Trip and Katie had the Suffering Bastard. The drinks aren’t cheap, and neither is the show, but both were very worth it.

Matilda runs through August 15th at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets are available through SHN’s website for $45-$210. They are also doing a $40 rush tickets for every show, so show up 2 ½ hours before any performance to try your luck. 2 per person. At the moment Goldstar also has tickets for sale for $65.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Now for Now – “Did she really pee?”

There’s been a buzz in the SF theater world about Now For Now the “multimedia physical theater piece created and performed by Bay Area theater makers Mark Jackson and Megan Trout”. It’s only in SF for a short run before it goes on tour nationally, so we headed to Z Below for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.


Photo by Gabby Battista


Brittany: Okay, let’s just get this out of the way, did she really pee?

Katie: I don’t think so. It had to have been some sort of water bag prop sort of thing.

B: That would have to be a health code violation, right? You can’t just pee on stage on purpose, even if you clean it up after.

K: Yeah, I don’t think she peed. You know what was really confusing for me though, is some of the things Mark (Jackson) was saying as his character, is stuff from his real life. I got too distracted trying to differentiate what was fiction vs. what was reality.

B: I enjoyed that they did that, especially in the opening. It was refreshing to have a prologue that that broke the third wall and drew the audience into the scene. They made some very cool staging choices too. It was neat having the live technology – live texting –  live video from the phone – real-time IM conversations – incorporated into the scenes. Screens are such a big element of how we interact with people, so I appreciate that they worked that into the evolution of these relationships.

K: They were definitely being innovative, which I appreciate, but I just wasn’t that interested in the characters.

B: There was a bit of navel gazing that I got a little fed up with too. Actors complaining about the kinds of problems actors face, that actors love to muse about. It made it hard for me to sympathize with their ennui. I didn’t really care what happened to either of the characters at the end.

K: There were moments that were fascinating to watch from a theatrical standpoint. The movement work was beautiful.

B: You just have to like theater for the art-of-theater’s sake, you’ll be disappointed if you go for the story.

K: I’m just disappointed because Mark Jackson was one of my favorite professors, and I felt like this play was very self indulgent which I wouldn’t have thought would be his style.

B: Maybe the play is a critique of itself. It comes across as narcissistic because it’s saying everyone is narcissistic. That’s why they took a selfie at curtain call.

K: I hope so. I’d rather think the whole show is meta, instead of just self indulgent.

The Verdict: It you enjoy arty theater, you may like this. If you go to theater to hear a compelling, moving story, we think this play falls short.

The Drama Talk: While the show makes some very innovative choices with the way it incorporates technology, and the movement in the transitions can be spellbinding, the show falls short when it comes to the stories it tells. Perhaps it’s because the show tells the same story three times over, just with the roles the actors play in each version slightly altered; in story one they’re father/daughter, story two lovers, story three teacher/student, with the same salient details re-conceived across the three relationship types. By the end we were both tired of the characters and their disillusioned lives.

The Drinks: After the show we rolled down the hill to Rite Spot Cafe to grab a laid back drink and dissect what we just saw. Brittany got a Bitter Bullet, because all the characters seemed so bitter, and Katie got a Moscow Mule, to go along with all the stories of being driven to drink by “hardcore” Russian actors. We wondered why we didn’t get drinks there after every show, and thanked our lucky stars that there are still bars in the Mission where you can get a good strong simple drink and talk the night away.

Now for Now runs through July 26th at the Z-Below theater at Z Space, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 5pm. Tickets are available on the Z Space website $20 for adults, or $15 for Students and Seniors.

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

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.


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.