Drama Talk & Drinks: The Shipment “Laughter is a place to start”

It’s not often you hear about a hilarious black identity-politics play. So when we heard that Crowded Fire Theater was doing the Bay Area premiere of Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee’s play, The Shipment, we knew it was time for a night of Drama Talks & Drinks.

William Hartfield and Nican Robinson open Crowded Fire’s THE SHIPMENT with gravity-defying choreography. Photo by Pak Han

William Hartfield and Nican Robinson open Crowded Fire’s THE SHIPMENT.
Photo by Pak Han

Brittany: I thought it was good. The opening was so energetic. From a theater-history standpoint the script was fun too. All the different vignettes were nods to different types of performance, from minstrel shows, to stand-up comedy, to Brecht, to a modern tv show. When viewed together they critiqued the way African Americans have been and are portrayed, but it did so without forcing the audience to sit through a history lesson.

Katie: I liked the different pieces individually, but despite some strong performances, I don’t think it flowed very well between them.

B: You’re right. It took me a minute to get into each piece. Once I got into it, it was great, but those transitions felt abrupt.

K: I constantly felt like I was playing catch-up when a new section began, because you had to get used to a totally different style of theater and different characters. An impressive feat for the actors. There were a lot of layers in there, which made it interesting, but I felt like I was missing a lot. I wish I had read the script first.

B: I do too, it was definitely a smart play. It left me more contemplative than emotionally impacted though. I appreciate that the final piece made the audience confront implicit biases, but I wish there had been a call to action. Laughter is a place to start, but I don’t think it pushed the audience far enough given our current news cycle.

K: Crowded Fire is doing cool new works though, and I appreciate that. It’s important that they’re supporting writers of color, actors of color, directors of color, and bringing in more diverse audiences. This play hit all those marks, and I enjoyed it.

The Verdict: Go see it! It’s an interesting play, with strong performances, and an important message.

The Drama Talk: While some of the messages in this 2009 play may not feel as revolutionary as they did when it originally premiered, it’s still a smart play which reminds us of the long history of racial bias in the media and thereby in our culture. It was an interesting and thought provoking night at the theater.

The Drinks: Crowded Fire’s theater tends to get pretty warm. Warm enough that the night we went they had fans on everyone’s seats.  After the show we needed a refreshing drink to cool us down so we headed up the hill to Bloom’s Saloon for great views and cheap gin and tonics.

The Shipment runs through October 15th at The Thick House theater. Tickets range from $15-30 and can be purchased on the Crowded Fire website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Interview with Lena Hall of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (aka Katie’s new girl crush)

A rock musical about a genderqueer East German singer named Hedwig is coming to town, and we think you should know about it. If you were a moody aughts theater kid like us, you probably saw the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch when it came out about 15 years ago:

What is extra exciting about this tour is the leading actors, Darren Criss (made famous by Glee) and Lena Hall (Tony Award Winner for her role in Hedwig and recent guest star on HBO’s Girls), are both San Francisco natives.

Katie was lucky enough to have a phone chat with Lena Hall before she headed to SF to kick-off the tour. We learned that she grew up in the Haight, was raised by parents who were dancers, attended Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in Diamond Heights, is a fierce supporter of arts for young people and is Katie’s new girl crush.

Lena Hall in her Tony Award winning role of Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Lena Hall in her Tony Award winning role of Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Katie: How have you seen the arts scene change in San Francisco since you were a kid?

Lena: I feel like the arts scene is very different from when I was growing up, in fact I think it’s a lot less (art) than when I was growing up, which is unfortunate. A lot of it has to do with the rising prices of rent. I grew up in the Haight-Ashbury, Upper Haight, and it used to be so colorful and different. Now it’s starting to lose its soul. Part of what made, and makes, San Francisco so great is that it has so much culture; but that culture is starting to get squandered by money. The arts are what makes the city appealing, the arts are what make a city viable and interesting. I hope there will be the desire to focus on that and emphasize the arts in San Francisco.

K: What is making you excited to perform Hedwig here in San Francisco?

L: I’ve never done a big production in SF, so this will be my first big show home coming. I get to perform the role that I won the Tony Award for, which is really cool, but what is really, really cool is that I get to play Hedwig! It’s like the year of the woman, we are just as badass as the guys are and guess what? I’m doing both roles in the same production, and will do both roles on the same day. I’m so in love with this show, and it’s such an honor and opportunity to play both roles. I’m beyond grateful for it.  I’m just so excited to bring it home and do this in our home town.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch opens next week!  If you want to see some homegrown celebrities rock it in a very San Francisco musical go out and get your tickets now.  Right now there are still tickets on Goldstar for opening night or you can get tickets on the SHN website. Drama Talk & Drinks will be seeing the show and reporting back. If it’s half as great as Lena, it’s going to be fabulous!

*If you want to see Lena make history being the first female to play Hedwig in a major Broadway tour, make sure to go on the following days: Sunday, October 9 at 7pm, Wednesday, October 12 at 8pm, Wednesday, October 19 at 8pm, and Wednesday, October 26 at 8pm.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident – “someone ate my goddamn ice cream sandwich”

We try not to miss our chance to see a show at PianoFight, after all what’s better than food, drinks and theater all in one place? We are particularly glad we didn’t miss The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident, a new play by Barry Eitel (head writer of Boxcar Theater’s 2014 production of Speakeasy) that looks at what happens when you put together a crew of four oddballs on experimental space mission….to nowhere. If you haven’t experienced a Faultline Theater show at the PianoFight venue, this is the show to do it.

icecreamsandwich

Brittany: That was fun.

Katie: It was really fun. I love that the play was a walking, talking social experiment. Super entertaining and well done. My only criticism is the scene transitions could have been a little tighter.

B: Yeah, they definitely had some trouble with transitions. I think a lot of the problem was the lighting design. There were a few times I noticed the lights, and you really aren’t supposed to notice the lights. People didn’t even know it was intermission, and people only knew it was the end of the play when people started bowing.

K: Exactly, the ending didn’t feel like an ending. The lighting really threw me off.

B: I thought it was a creative concept though. Exploring what happens when four people share a small “space station” is surprisingly relatable, at least if you have had roommates. Somebody eating all the ice-cream sandwiches can totally create a month long drama. It’s so ridiculous, but so feasible at the same time. I would be pissed if I was stuck on a “space station” and I was looking forward to dessert all week and someone ate my goddamn ice-cream sandwich.

K: Me too! I thought there were a lot of clever moments in this piece. Those blue rope lights tho… so college dorm room.

B: I agree, but if the worst thing is the lighting design that’s a pretty good show.

K: True, and if you are wanting more after this show you can hit up the 9:30 show and after that you can hit up the 11:59 improv show and just theater your face off. Or just sit in the bar, eat, drink and listen to the live music. Not a bad night.

The Verdict: Refreshing, fun and clever. If you like seeing shows that have ridiculous relationship drama, but also hilariously reflect real-life, this is the night out at the theater for you.

The Drama Talk: Faultline Theater reliably pulls together talented people to put on interesting plays; The Ice-cream Sandwich Incident is no exception. Good talent, good set, good costumes, all around well produced (except we didn’t like the lighting design). The playwright’s ideas about how-to mediate conflicts in space are funny and fantastic. With such activities as a “space ballet” dance-off, a mock talk-show, and a reality TV style “chamber of emotions”, the play explores realistic roommate drama in hilarious ways.

The Drinks: We love PianoFight, because it’s a one stop shop for food and drinks and entertainment. If you haven’t made it to this venue yet you really should! Great food (OMG their fries), cocktails (the Goldrush is delicious and dangerous), two  theaters and a cabaret stage with live music. Sometimes it’s nice to only have to go to one place, and this night we did just that.

The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident runs through August 27th, with shows at 7:30 Thursday – Saturday, and 6pm on Sundays. Tickets range from $25 for VIP front row tickets, to $15 for general admission, or $10 (The Double Date) for groups of 4+, and are available through the Faultline Theater website.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Need a Date Night? Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is coming back to San Francisco! We saw it here before it went onto Broadway victory, winning two Tony’s and a Grammy. We have to miss it this time around but that doesn’t mean you have to! Need a date night? Go out for drama talk and drinks!

 

Here’s the summary of our review of this musical back when we saw in Fall 2013:

Are you a huge fan of 60s/70s pop music? Are you into music history? You should totally go see this show! Don’t care about music from that era? You’ll probably be disappointed with the brevity of the story, even though it’s an endearing one. Just like most shows put up by SHN, this one doesn’t fail to dazzle with the production. Beautiful sets, talented actors, overall a great spectacle. The only thing that fell short was the play, which choose hits over substance.

Here is the entire review.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs from August 9th – September 18th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets range from $45-$212 and can be purchased through the SHN website. Right now there are some orchestra and mezzanine tickets available on Goldstar for $55-$70.

 

 

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Schooled “the liberals couldn’t get their shit together”

Summer time in San Francisco means free theater in the park from the long running (57 year old) SF Mime Troupe. No, they’re not silent mimes. They’re a troupe committed to creating socially relevant theater. In the throws of one of the most dramatic election seasons in recent history, we needed to see something that would make us both laugh, and think. So off we went to see SF Mime Troupe’s Schooled at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival for some drama talk and drinks.

Velina Brown (Lavina Jones) and Rotimi Agbabiaka (Thomas Jones) in Schooled. Photo: Mike@mikemelnyk.com

Velina Brown (Lavina Jones) and Rotimi Agbabiaka (Thomas Jones) in Schooled. Photo: Mike@mikemelnyk.com

Katie: Seeing a play in San Francisco produced by a democratic-socialist theater company about why one shouldn’t vote for Trump seemed….I don’t know, like singing to the choir? Did I like the song? Hell yes! It was the song I like to sing;  anti-Trump, anti-oppression, anti-big business and lets do what’s right for the people and not just what’s right for the bottom line. I was into it, but it didn’t feel like it was changing any minds. It was great to feel part of the community though.  What an awesome crowd.

Brittany: Yeah, the crowd was genuinely diverse, which was neat. You don’t see that at a lot of shows. You are totally spot on with the fact they are singing to the choir, but I don’t know if that’s a problem.  It was terrifying that in the end the character which was most like Trump won. The liberals couldn’t get their shit together. If our election plays out like this super liberal theater troupe is saying, we are going to have a Trump presidency and, as you’d guess, it doesn’t end well.

K: Terrifying for sure, I think that’s the point, to show the audience what’s at stake if we don’t all work to make sure he loses. The actors did such a great job. A really well rounded cast with some great singers. They all played multiple characters really well too.  The show moved and held my attention. Here we are, in this busy urban park in the middle of downtown, people everywhere and I was so in it. It had good pacing, scene changes, and use of music and sound effects. It all really came together in this piece.

B: Their sets are so cool. I love the way they are so small but do so much. The song where the actors were being spun on and off stage singing about why they should be elected for president of the school board was really well done. You have to think, they do this in different locations where they have to set it up break it down. They’re outside, people everywhere, and technically it goes perfectly. Really impressive and so on point. The show was maybe too real for me, despite being satire. It didn’t feel as hopeful as other Mime Troupe shows I’ve seen, and we need a little more hope in politics right now. That really has nothing to do with the show though, just my depression regarding the current state of political affairs.

Verdict: Relevant. Entertaining. Well done. It’s FREE & anti-Trump. We think this is a well spent day in the park.

The Drama Talk:  There’s good reason SF Mime Troupe has been around so long, producing high quality, politically relevant theater, they’re very good at it. Although the show is obviously intended as a satire of the current election, with characters representing Hillary, Bernie and Trump, they did a good job creating their own story-line (a school board election) so it doesn’t feel stale. Although by the end of the play you can’t mistake the commentary on contemporary events, they also tackle some interesting topics which go beyond the election including the purpose of education, the mechanization of labor, and other important themes. The actors are all extremely talented, the band is fun, the set is great. Although none of the songs are super memorable, the message of the show is.

The Drinks: We have been hearing a lot about Susan Sarandon’s ping-pong bar and restaurant project called Spin and since it was very close to Yerba Buena Gardens we decided to check it out. We didn’t play ping-pong (It’s $50 for 1 hour!) but we did have some cocktails which were delicious and average SF prices. This extremely modern, street artsy, swanky “social club” was quite the contrast to our afternoon in a park watching free community theater. Fun, but fancy enough that you could imagine Jay-Z making an appearance.

Schooled runs through September 5th at various parks (see below). Tickets are FREE.

Lakeside Park- (Lake Merritt)in front of the Edoff Memorial Bandstand

Wed., July 27-7:00 pm (Music 6:30)

Thurs., July 28 – 7:00 pm (Music 6:30)

Bellevue Ave. & Perkins St., Oakland

McLaren Park-Jerry Garcia Amphitheater

Sat., July 30-2:00 pm (Music 1:30)

100 John F ShelleyDr.,

San Francisco

Walnut Park-Petaluma Progressive Festival

Sun., July 31-4:00 pm (Music 3:30)

201 4th St. (at D St.), Petaluma

See the complete schedule HERE.

 

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Low Hanging Fruit “it was depressing…it was supposed to be”

After seeing Victoria Beckham’s feminist revamp of Wannabe, our girl-power was feeling particularly…powerful. So when we heard local women-led company, 3Girls Theatre Company,  had a new show, written by a woman, about a very important women’s issue (homeless female war vets), starring women, it really was a no brainer, we had to see it for Drama Talk & Drinks.

Cheri Vanden Heuvel, Heather Gordon. Photo by: Mario Parnell Photography

Katie: Gosh, it had some strong elements to it, some good performances, and important subject matter, but there was just something about the play itself that felt off to me. Post war trauma that leads to homelessness is a complicated issue. This play does a good job highlighting elements of it and portraying the feeling of  helplessness, but the end just seemed too simplified. For one character it felt overly dramatic, and for two of the others is felt almost too easy (spoiler alert: they had a home to go live in with one of their families). It felt like the playwright needed an end, so she just tied it up a bit too tidily.

Brittany:  I agree having the show be resolved so easily felt weird. But there were some really strong female characters, which I appreciated. I thought the girl who played Cory (Heather Gordon, pictured above) was really good, she was a fantastic actress. There were some very moving stories, and important themes that each of the vets brought to the play. It was depressing… it was supposed to be, but at times it felt too heavy.

K: I didn’t love Maya’s asides where she was preaching in the church. They took me out of the story, it felt clunky.

B: Yeah, they didn’t move the story forward, although some of them had very powerful imagery. I don’t think they needed the extra drama that the Canyon character brought to the piece though. I understand her arrival was the catalyst for the conflict, but there was plenty of deep stuff to deal with without her making the end even more tragic. Right now is a hard time to see this show. There is just so much fucked up stuff going on in the world right now. This reminds you of something else to be depressed about.

The Verdict: An important but depressing play with some very strong actors. If you feel like you can handle an (almost overly) tragic play, it’s worth a watch.

The Drama Talk: Homelessness by itself is sad, as is PTSD, drug abuse, sexual abuse, war, and any number of issues that this play tries to tackle. While the show is very well acted, the script at times feels like it’s just piling on too much tragedy. Particularly the end (which we won’t totally spoil, but DAMN really…you had to go there?) Still supporting local theater, by, for and about women is totally something you should do.

The Drinks: We headed into the Mission from Potrero Hill to check out Wild Hawk, which is the bar that took over the Lexington, but it was too full of people. So we headed down Mission Street to Gashead Tavern, mainly because it wasn’t busy. Since this show put us in a dark place, we both ordered Dark and Stormy’s.

Low Hanging Fruit runs until July 30th at the Z Below. Tickets are available for $30 through the 3Girls Theatre website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $17.50.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side) “You have to laugh at how ridiculous real-life is”

A former co-worker of Brittany’s was in a new show at Piano Fight, Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side). Katie was busy, but Brittany wanted to see the show, so she rounded up a group of co-workers (groups of 6+ get discounted tickets) and out they went for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks – co-worker-edition.

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Brittany: So did you like it?

Co-worker 1: I thought it was fun!

Co-worker 2: Yeah, it was great.

Co-worker 3: I feel like I am supposed to say something really profound.

Brittany: Have you read Drama Talk & Drinks? You don’t need to say anything profound.

Co-worker 4: I thought it was very thoughtful, very good characters.

Co-worker 3: I loved the characters too. The were really rich. I wanted to hear more from them. The scenes moved so quickly. I felt like it was unfinished; I wanted resolution.

Co-worker 2: I kind of liked that.You get to peak inside of someone else’s life, but you don’t know how it ends.

Co-worked 1: I also appreciated the diversity of people and themes they included in the show. They touched on rising rents, homelessness, women in tech, and lots of other issues, all while making me laugh.

Brittany: I came in worried that it may be too snarky, and I was happy it wasn’t. It was funny but earnest.

Co-worker 5: I didn’t always know when to laugh. There were times when it would jump between something funny, and then suddenly jump to something deep, and I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

Co-worker 6: It was very genuine though. I felt like I was watching conversations I’ve had before be performed on stage. You have to laugh at how ridiculous real life is sometimes.

The Verdict: Our group was unanimous, and not just because we’re bias, this is a show worth seeing.  While it makes fun of the tech industry, and touches on some of the negative impacts the influx of people and money has had on our city, it does so with a warmth. This show reminds us that we are more similar than we are different, which feels like an important message to take home nowadays.

The Drama Talk: We’re a group of privileged young professionals, and this show definitely is written for that demographic. The script was supposedly pulled directly from the life of the playwright (Stuart Bousel), and his time working – at first reluctantly – as an office manager for a start-up. From intimate moments in bed with his boyfriend worrying about how to pay rent as an artist in SF, to awkward and funny conversations at work, a coffee-shop, and a recruiters office, the show jumps quickly between quick scenes giving the audience the feeling of being a fly on the wall. Although the quick cuts were a bit jolting at first, and the constant lights up and down with lots of (efficient but distracting) set movement sometimes forced you out of the moment, the show on the whole is a funny and honest look at life in today’s San Francisco.

The Drinks: As is often the case with a night out at Piano Fight, there’s no real reason to leave the venue after the show. We got post-show drinks at the bar, toasted our friend and a successful night of drama talk and drinks.

Adventures in Tech is already half way through their run. They have a show tonight (July 8) and one more weekend July 14-16, so go soon if you want to catch it before it closes. They have a great deal that tickets are $15/person for groups of 6 or more. Goldstar also has some discount tickets ranging from $12.50-$20. Regular general admission tickets are $25 and can be purchased

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Beauty and the Beast “I’m the BEEEAAST. You are YOOOU!”

There’s something about summer that makes a person nostalgic for childhood. Maybe it’s a pining for the good-ol’-days of summer vacation, or the longer hours of sunlight awaken something inside, but summer always feels like a good time to give-in to our more juvenile instincts. Perhaps that’s why when we heard that Beauty and the Beast was coming to SHN’s Orpheum Theater we decided to go for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Beauty and the Beast

Brittany: It was cute. The kids in the audience were adorable.

Katie: Yes! It’s always fun when you have a responsive audience. It was cute to hear the kids get into it.

B: Lumiere was awesome. I loved him.

K: “Be Our Guest” was fucking FUN. It’s fun in the movie, but it was more fun on stage. Amazing costumes, choreography, and sets. You really felt transported to a magical world. I was obsessed with Beauty and the Beast when I was kid. I literally watched it every day the year it came out.

B: So did it live up your expectations?

K: Not exactly. The opening song and “Be Our Guest” were great. I didn’t care much about the new ones they added to the score though.

B: The new Beast songs were droning.

K: Right? He was like (singing)I’m the BEEAAST, you are YOOOU!”. There were also different character development things I preferred in the movie. The Beast seemed a lot more abusive in the stage version. He wasn’t just losing his temper, he was throwing Belle around.

B: Belle is always a little Stockholm Syndrome-y, but I feel like the live-action makes it darker than the cartoon. The ending seemed more aggressive than I remember too. Gaston in the movie was a jerk, but funny. In this he was a little more sinister and violent.

K: The voices were beautiful, the actors were very talented, and the set was amazing, but I still think I prefer the movie version. There were certain things that were awesome to see on stage. They used the puppets really well, and the transformation of the Beast was so cool to see live. I just wish they had either gone really different from the film, or stayed true to it. This felt in-between.

B: At the same time, the kids in the audience seemed to love it. Which, really, is the point. I think it’s a show for kids. It just also happens to appeal to adults since it’s a Disney classic.

The Verdict: Have family visiting for the holiday weekend or summer vacation? This is a great family friendly activity. Love Disney and want to see your favorite characters live on stage? Go, but it may not be exactly what you expect. Hate Disney and the patriarchal sugar coated fairy-tales it peddles?  This show is probably not your cup of tea.

The Drama Talk: Like so many touring shows, there are lots of great things to say about this production. The set, costumes, and spectacle truly transport you to a fairy-tale world. The leads are all very talented. Lumiere, played by Ryan N. Phillips, could not be more fun to watch. Yet despite a lot of good, it didn’t quite live up to our childhood memories of the original Disney animated film.

The Drinks: If you too want to find yourself in an enchanted castle, and return to a different kind of childhood, we recommend walking a few blocks up to Geary to the classic dive bar Edinburgh Castle Pub after the show. You’re best off if you stick with beer, but they do have a full bar.

Beauty and the Beast runs through July 10th. There are $40 “virtual rush” tickets available for every show, so go ahead and try your luck here. There are also currently discount tickets available on Goldstar for as little as $45. Otherwise, you can always purchase tickets through the SHN website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Cabaret “I mean, what good is sitting alone in your room?”

I love me some classic, yet ahead of its time theater and one of my favorites is Cabaret. Even if you have never seen this musical, I’m sure you have heard one or two of its iconic songs.      [HERE is a link to the musical highlights, I urge you to get nostalgic (or educated) and check it out.] It’s too bad something came up for Brittany and she couldn’t make this one, but I was so excited to be able to take my friend Tara who has never been to a live musical. After grabbing a really good, well priced burger (we definitely recommend Popson’s as your dinner before the show) we crossed the street and headed into the beautiful Golden Gate Theatre to (hopefully) demonstrate to Tara the magic of live theater.

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 Katie: I love that I was with you for your first live musical! So how was it?

Tara: It was what I had expected. I’ve seen some theater but not much in my life, being from Florida and Arizona. I would say that the engagement with the audience was more than I anticipated and I really enjoyed that.

K: For me, overall, there was a lack of chemistry between characters, but there was some great individual performances. Who was your favorite character?

T: The master of ceremonies for sure. He really engaged with the audience. Although, if I was the one he pulled up out of the crowd to dance with I would have been mortified.

K: At the end a lot of people immediately stood up for a standing ovation, but not us. Why do you think you didn’t immediately stand up for the ovation at the end?

T: I’ve never experienced something that has made me feel like I wanted to stand up…so I’m not sure what that would be, but it wasn’t this.

K: This play didn’t make me want to stand up either. It might be because I’ve seen this play so many times, it’s just no longer exciting. I felt weirdly uninterested in what was going on.

T: The story line itself, while it was sad and people really did experience the scariness of pre-WWII Germany, didn’t bring the intensity of emotion until the end.

K: Would you go see another live musical?

T: Yes, of course. A musical on screen I don’t connect with at all. It loses my focus. Where seeing this live I was able to stay focused and connected with the songs and the actors. Also, I stayed awake the whole time, which says a lot since I’m known for falling asleep during movies.

K: Would you recommend this show to your friends?

T: Yes, totally. Especially friends who don’t go see live theater. I’m a big fan of doing something new, something different. Don’t just stick with the same’ol same’ol. Experiences like these are important. I mean, what good is sitting alone in your room? (wink, wink)

The Verdict: This show is a must see for those who have never seen Cabaret. If you have seen it this might not meet all your expectations, so consider getting rush or Goldstar tickets and save for some upcoming big Broadway touring shows. (such as Beautiful, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, or Hamilton – I know we CAN’T wait for those shows!)

The Drama Talk: This 1966 musical still holds up as a fearless, beautiful and important piece of musical theater. It’s been revived 8 times for a reason. With that said, there was something about this revival and cast that felt business as usual. There was very little surprises for those who are familiar with this musical, and for those who are unfamiliar it’s entertaining but due to a lack of character chemistry and complicated production value aren’t necessarily blown away.

The Drinks: There are quite a few options near the Golden Gate Theater. We recommend crossing the street to a bar called Showdown.

Cabaret runs through July 17th, at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets range from $50 – $212 and are available through the SHN website. They are doing in-person AND mobile $40 rush tickets, which is pretty cool. Visit the show’s homepage to find link to the mobile app. There are also currently sometickets on Goldstar selling for $55-$110.

Drama Talk & Drinks: West Side Story “Nothing says gang violence like grand jetés”

We’re suckers for the Stern Grove Festival (which, PSA starts next weekend). Epic picnics, redwoods, and culture all in one place. A trip to Stern Grove also means layers though. No matter how warm it may be when you start, you’ll end up shivering and cocooned in your dusty picnic blanket by the end. So when Brittany learned that a similar phenomenon, Mountain Play, existed just across the Bay on Mt. Tam, high out of Karl’s reach, she was intrigued. This summer’s production is the classic, West Side Story, so she asked her boyfriend (and frequent DT&D contributor Sam) on a Sunday date. They packed a picnic, rented a car, and drove up the mountain for a day of Drama Talk & Drinks.

West Side Story

Sam: I think this is the widest set I’ve ever seen. This theater is insane, I can’t believe that view! Did you get a good picture of the set?

Brittany: Yeah, I took it before the fog took over when you could still see the City.

S: Oooo, it looks cold down there. We should stay up here, above the clouds, there’s a place for us.

B: So did you like the show?

S: Yeah, I thought it was great. Great set, good costumes, this space is amazing.

B: They had great voices too. The dancing was the only thing fell a bit short for me. West Side Story is part ballet. Nothing says gang violence like grand jetés, and only some of the dancers were up to the task, although the fight choreography was on-point

S: They’re baking under the hot sun, at 2000 feet. I was impressed.

B: True, the audience was dropping like flies. I saw at least 3 people near us need to get medical help during the first act because of the heat.

S: I felt bad for the orchestra, they were outstanding, but they were stuffed into that little black box on stage. It must have been boiling.

B: I think it’s hard when seeing a play in a venue like this to fully appreciate the show. There’s so many distractions, the view, the wine, the picnic, kids walking around, audience members fainting. I think they did a good production of West Side Story, but with so much else going on you lose some of the emotional impact. You’re never fully immersed into the world of the play.

S: You don’t get the same punch, that’s for sure. It’s nice that outdoor theater doesn’t have to be as buttoned up though. The whole experience of spending a day on top of Mt. Tam, listening to the pre-show music, having a picnic, hiking up from the car to get here and then there’s a great show on top of it all. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday.

The Verdict: There’s a reason people are more likely to call this production by its company name, Mountain Play, than the name of the show they’re seeing. West Side Story was good, but it’s the whole experience that makes this day-trip worthwhile.

The Drama Talk: The actors had fantastic voices, the set and costumes were great, and although the dancers fell a bit short of Broadway-quality, it was still a well-choreographed show. West Side Story is a classic for a reason, and this is a solid production. Mountain Play is all about the experience. It’s a whole day affair. Music starts at 12:30 so if you get your act together you can arrive around noon, eat your picnic, kids can get their face painted, and hang out before the show starts. There’s even a picnic judging competition, which is just too intimidating, but it gives you an idea of how serious there people are about enjoying Sunday. Get there early for parking on-mountain and a place to sit in the shade.

The Drinks: Lots of people bring wine with their picnics, and there’s also wine and beer for sale on the Mountain. Just be careful to hydrate, it is hot and you’re at altitude. After the show we reluctantly rolled down the mountain back into the fog and Mill Valley, picking up a stranded fellow audience member on the way whose car was parked at the bottom. She told us that she grew up in Mill Valley and hadn’t been back to a Mountain Play since she was a kid. For her, this defined Marin summer. Jonesing for Puerto Rican food, we went to the closest thing we could find nearby, Joe’s Taco Lounge and Salsaria. We got some margaritas and toasted to a successful day of Drama Talk & Drinks.

West Side Story runs through June 19th, shows are on Sunday’s at 2:00pm, but pre-show music starts at 12:30 so get there early to picnic and enjoy the view. General admission tickets are $40 and available on the Mountain Play website.