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

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

Taylor Mac, photo by Teddy Wolf

Taylor Mac, photo by Teddy Wolf

Brittany: SIX HOURS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drama Talk & Drinks: An American In Paris – “who is this musical for?”

We have kicked off the Fall theater season with seeing the Tony Award winning musical, An American In Paris at SHN’s Orpheum Theatre. It’s a musical inspired by the 1951 film, which is full of George and Ira Gershwin songs. Brittany couldn’t make it, so she was replaced with our backup theater lover, Garrett.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
An American in Paris Touring Company

Katie: So much dancing.

Garrett: Yeah, but the dancing is what I liked about it.

K: Really? There were great dancers and dance sequences for sure, but for me when I’m not interested in the story, the dancing feels like a filler. The dancing was beautiful, but there was just so much of it, and the show dragged on for me. The other aspect that made it drag for me was the weak male romantic lead (Jerry Mulligan, played by McGee Maddox), who was far from believable.

G: I think the show started off strong, but then the story didn’t hold up and it never quite took off for me. It felt like a forced love story and very old fashioned for a newly adapted script.

K: It felt like a super old American musical, which I can appreciate but don’t seem to have as much patience for anymore, I’m just over this style of storytelling. I mean, who is this musical for?

G: It feels like it’s for grandparents or someone who loves the nostalgia that you get from the old classic Gershwin songs, or maybe a very young person who loves to be visually stimulated and doesn’t need a complex well developed storyline.

K: I guess. I think we are just not the audience for this musical. I was underwhelmed. It felt stale and unimaginative. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone between the ages of 20-50.

The Verdict: This old time feeling musical could be a great night out with parents or grandparents. The nostalgia from classic songs like “I Got Rhythm” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is enjoyable. Don’t go to this show expecting something new and unexpected.

The Drama Talk: This Tony winning musical fell short when it came to imaginative, well developed storytelling, but didn’t disappoint in terms of music and choreography. Everything about this production, from the set to the costumes and actors, were just, well….fine, but nothing really stood out as exceptional. This felt like a big budget Broadway musical going through the motions and checking the standard boxes of what used to wow people. There is nothing new to see here.

The Drinks: Less than a block away there is a new beer and wine bar called Fermentation Lab. It wasn’t crowded or loud which made it a great place to grab a drink and talk about what we had just seen.

An American In Paris runs through October 8th at the Orpheum Theatre. There are $40 both virtual and in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush instructions. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $50-70.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: SF Mime Troupe’s “Walls” – This play pissed off Breitbart

We know we are in the middle of summer when we get the notification for a San Francisco Mime Troupe show. We look forward to it every summer. We were extra excited to find out that they are celebrating their 58th season with a show musical about immigration called “Walls”. So we packed our picnic basket full of treats and canned wine, and headed off to McLaren Park for some drama talk and drinks.

l-r) Velina Brown (L. Mary Jones), Marilet Martinez (Zaniyah Nahuatl) Photo by: Mike@mikemelnyk.com

l-r) Velina Brown (L. Mary Jones), Marilet Martinez (Zaniyah Nahuatl)
Photo by: Mike@mikemelnyk.com

Brittany: What a beautiful day! It’s always nice to see a show outside in a park.

Katie: Yeah, the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater is awesome! Can’t believe I have never been there. Such a great location for this. But for me, the location was one of my favorite parts about it. This one wasn’t quite as inventive and creative as I remember their other shows being. I found myself not super interested in what was going to happen next, because it seemed too obvious and predictable.

B: The last Mime Troupe show we saw was just before the election, and it felt really urgent. It made me feel like “we’re gonna fight, we’re speaking truth to power”! I didn’t feel that after this show. I kind of just felt sad. The final message seemed to be “our immigration system is a terrible mess, but the best thing we can do is help escort undocumented immigrants to their ICE trials”. I did appreciate that they included sound bites not just of Trump, but also of Obama, both Bushes and Clinton showing how long our immigration system has been broken. It’s important to acknowledge this is a huge and longstanding problem, I just wish there was more of a call to action. Although this play pissed off Breitbart News, so that’s worth something!

The Verdict: Any weekend spent sitting in a park, sipping wine, and watching free theater is a weekend well spent. Expect to be entertained but don’t expect to leave inspired to make a change.

The Drama Talk: Not the most inspired show we’ve seen done by SF Mime Troupe. The premise of Walls sounds compelling (an undocumented lesbian immigrant living in hiding with her ICE agent partner) but the script is pretty predictable and not nearly as boundary pushing as other SF Mime Troupe shows we’ve seen in the past. The SF Mime Troupe company is consistently talented, and does a good job playing multiple roles and keeping the show moving. While some of the actors have great voices, none of the songs are really memorable.  It’s a free show and it’s in a park, so if it’s a nice day it’s worth going. Unfortunately, despite Breitbart’s outrage, we don’t think this show will actually spark any leftist revolutions.

The Drinks: These shows are mostly in parks and we recommend bringing drinks with you. We brought Underwood canned wine from Trader Joe’s. Super classy.

Walls is running through September 10th at various locations. Tickets are free. You can check out locations for their upcoming shows on their website.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: A Night at the Palace “just come and enjoy the show and party”

The Speakeasy has added a new show on Friday nights that “welcomes audiences to the immersive, Prohibition-era world of The Speakeasy with a mix of lighthearted cabaret acts and interactive scenes.” It’s called A NIGHT AT THE PALACE and was created to be a less structured theatrical experience and more of a party. We were intrigued and knew we needed to see how this new spin would feel after seeing the full Speakeasy show. So we headed to North Beach to meet a someone on a corner, tell them our secret line, and get escorted to a secret underground location for some drama talk and drinks.

Brittany: I had so much fun!

Katie: What an incredible night out. There really isn’t anything like it in San Francisco.

B: I’ve really never seen anything like it anywhere. The line between audience and performer, the show and reality, is so blurred. You just lose yourself in this other world.

K: This was my first time seeing this new space and it is SO cool! The decor and the costumes were on point, but I think the main thing that really made me feel transported back in time was that there is a no phone rule. There was no point where I looked around and I saw screens, which never happens anymore. People were captivated by the show, or the pleasure of each other’s company, and not distracted by their phones.

B: It is great to be able to fully unplug and just have a really fun time with friends. I also still can’t believe how committed audience members are to dressing for the show. People wear the most amazing costumes, and it’s great that everyone just dives-in and has fun.

K: I know this is a new thing they are trying, having an option to just come and enjoy the show and party. I appreciate that. You could sit in the cabaret and watch the show and when you felt like it you could get up and go to the bar and casino room. I didn’t have the feeling like I was missing out on something that was happening in the other rooms since there weren’t multiple storylines happening around us.

B: I think this could also be a great way to get introduced into the full show, since it introduces you to the characters, but without any of the drama. It lets you explore the space in a much more laid back way too. Besides, who doesn’t love a night of delicious drinks, dressing up, and entertaining characters.

The Verdict: So much fun! It’s both entertaining and stimulating without being overwhelming.

The Drama Talk: The first time we went to Speakeasy we were a bit overwhelmed. So many plots, so many secret rooms, so many actors all around you. We loved it, but it was hard not to have FOMO knowing that some cool story was happening in the other room that we were probably missing. A Night at the Place maintains all the fun and magic of the original Speakeasy show while making it a lot more lighthearted. The cabaret acts were great, we had a bunch of fun conversations with actors trying to sell us on their bootlegged gin, and we still got the feeling of stepping into another era. While not all of the secret rooms are operational on this night (the office and the dressing room which both allow audience members to eavesdrop on different storylines are not used during A Night at the Palace) you get to stay later and dance the night away in the cabaret, which was really a highlight. This would be a great special outing for a group of friends, or an awesome way to introduce out of town guests to the magic of San Francisco.

The Drinks: Are strong, delicious and plenty! You will be able to order drinks from your table in the cabaret or you can go into the bar area and order. Make sure to give them your credit card info beforehand (before noon the day you’re scheduled to see the show) to make ordering food and drink easy.

A Night At the Palace runs Friday nights through September 1st at a secret venue near Chinatown and North Beach (Ticket buyers will receive a text or email the day of the event with directions on how to obtain the address). Tickets are $25-$85 depending on the time of entry you choose. Tickets and more info are on their website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – “Wow”

It’s rare that plays on Broadway get as much buzz as the blockbuster musicals. The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time is the exception to that rule. Winner of five Tony Awards in 2015, including Best-Play, we had heard about this play for a while. So when we were heard the tour was going to SHN’s Golden Gate Theater, we were excited to see it for Drama Talk & Drinks.

Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone in the touring production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" - photo by Joan Marcus

Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone in the touring production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” – photo by Joan Marcus

Katie: Wow, I couldn’t look away. I was so engaged, and intrigued, and invested in Christopher [The lead character -Ed.] and his story. Even though at moments the plot was predictable, it didn’t matter because it was such good story telling. I was interested in the whole family. The actor who played Christopher (Adam Langdon) was so incredibly talented. The set was innovative and propelled the show forward, which is a hard thing for a set to do. I just really enjoyed it.

Brittany: I agree. It was one of those shows that, although it wasn’t pleasant to watch because of the intense sound and lighting design, it’s just too good not to. I thought the way they used the lights and sound to put the audience into Christopher’s head was so innovative. It’s hard to say it’s enjoyable, because when you’re getting blasted with strobe lights and loud screeching noises it’s definitely jeering, but it’s such a powerful story and creative production.

K: Totally, for once I can’t think of anything to criticize. I was just really moved.

B: They showed a lot of humanness. It’s wonderful that a show told from the perspective of a 15 year old boy who is on the autism spectrum is one of the most empathetic shows I’ve seen. You could totally understand why all the characters in the show did the not-so-pleasant things they did, and feel for them, even while knowing that they were making selfish or wrong decisions.

K: It got messy, but it was so good.The show was engaging, you didn’t really have time to think of anything else, but be present and watch this story about these very imperfect people unfold. It’s definitely a must see.

The Verdict: GO SEE IT! It’s not an “easy” show, there’s some uncomfortable moments, but it’s such a well done play it’s worth a little discomfort.

The Drama Talk: When you walk into the theater, there’s a dead dog in the middle of the stage with a pitch-fork stuck in it (a ‘garden fork’ in the script – it’s set in the UK).  The play’s plot never gets much lighter than this, but still somehow, there’s a joy and lightness to the production. The performance puts the audience into the mind of a 15 year old boy, named Christopher, who is a math savant but “ill-equipped to interpret everyday life”. The set is remarkable, with LED lights and built in projections that transport the viewer to the different settings of the show, but also into Christopher’s thoughts and fantasies. While the show isn’t “immersive” in the sense that the audience never leaves their seats, it does transport the audience into a different sort of consciousness. When Christopher is panicked, the play uses lighting and sound to induce a similar sort of emotion in the audience. While it’s not always comfortable, it’s definitely memorable, and makes for a moving night at the theater.

The Drinks: After the show we decided to check-out a bar we hadn’t tried yet, Rx, a ‘apothecary themed cocktail lounge’ a few blocks uphill at the corner of Geary and Leavenworth. It was a cozy and chill spot to grab a strong fancy cocktail and unpack the show.

 A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs through July 23rd at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater. Tickets range from $55-$200 on the SHN website. There are also a limited number of virtual rush tickets that are available through the Today Tix app, and a limited number of $35 Rush tickets available via an in-person rush,  beginning 2 hours prior to curtain at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre Box Office. Note, the in-person rush tickets are cash only with a 2 per person limit. At time of publishing there are still some $40 Goldstar tickets available for the show too.

Drama Talk & Drinks: How to be a White Man – “They had me with the title”

Can the idea of ‘fake it til’ you make it’ work for white male privilege? If you just act like a bro, no matter your race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, can you get a free pass when you act like a jerk? That’s what Luna Malbroux and Jennifer Lewis ask in their new play How To Be a White Man now playing at PianoFight produced by FaultLine Theater company. Always up for a play that “takes a bold look at race, sexuality, and gender” we decided to check it out for Drama Talk & Drinks.

Luna Malbroux - Photo by Clive Walker

Luna Malbroux – Photo by Clive Walker

Katie: They had me with the title How To Be a White Man. I love talking about white male privilege and I love seeing new works by women, particularly women of color, so I was excited about this show. I just wish I liked it more than I did. The writing was funny and called out some good shit. It was a fresh and relevant script. Where it fell short was in the execution.

Brittany: I agree, it was a cool interesting script, very thought provoking, but at the same time there was something off with this performance. I know they were having technical difficulties before the show started, so maybe that contributed, but the pacing was off.

K: There were so many awkward transitions which took me out of the show. The actors were kind-of lackluster too. There were moments when I was totally with them, during one of the serious monologues or the hilarious stand-up routines, but then it would fizzle when they moved on to the next moment.

B: It seemed like something was off, like actors were having to cover for someone who was late for an entrance or dropped a line. It was strange since you could definitely see there were talented people in the show, but it dragged, it felt inconsistent.

K: This script has so much potential, the production we saw just didn’t quite do it for me.

The Verdict:  This production had some great moments, but this is one occasion where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. The script is fresh, relevant, and fun. There is a cool set, some talented actors, and some innovative uses of video projections. But, it fell short because of pacing.

The Drama Talk: This isn’t an easy show. The script is based on comedian Luna Malbroux’s experience as a queer Black woman, and also draws from a series of real interviews the playwrights did with people all over the country on the topic of white male privilege. At times the play takes place in a fantasy world, a comedy club, in the past, in the present, as an internal monologue. Actors are playing multiple roles, and scenes change quickly. There were moments when everyone in the play was strong, but there were also moments when every performer in the play was not. Because of the highly episodic nature of the script, it at times was hard to stay in the moment. However despite pacing issues, this is still very relevant new work, that’s worth seeing just for the interesting content. They also give out free white male privilege vouchers, so that’s reason enough to check it out.

The Drinks: As is always the case when we go to PianoFight, we don’t see a need to go anywhere else. We got drinks and food at the in-house restaurant and bar after the show, and toasted a fun and thought provoking night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

How to Be a White Man runs through July 1st at PianoFight. Thursdays @7:30pm, Fridays @7:30pm, Saturdays @7:30pm with one Wednesday performance June 28th @7:30pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased HERE.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Phèdre – “where the hell did she come from!”

We’ve been loving Cutting Ball Theater recently and their “radical re-visionings of classic works”. When we found out they had a new production of Phèdre, the classic Greek tragedy about the perils of unrequited love for your stepson, opening we knew it was time for a night of drama talk and drinks.

phedre_1140x641_iii

Brittany: Cutting Ball is very good at making classic plays approachable. These actors did a great job tackling dense language and making it, at least for me, very understandable. I kinda know Greek mythology but certainly don’t remember it well, and I appreciate how clear they made a very complicated story.

Katie: I struggle with Greek plays. Theseus, Hippolytus, Hercules… all the names and the intersecting myths and back stories. It’s so confusing, and as you said the language is dense. I think Phèdre (Courtney Walsh) did the best job at normalizing the language. She was SO good. But I still found it hard. I’ve seen other shows at Cutting Ball that I’ve liked better. This just didn’t feel as inventive as usual. The only thing that looked fresh were the costumes, and even then I didn’t understand they were from the 50’s.

B: Yeah, they didn’t really do anything with that time period.

K: Yeah, so why even make their outfits 50’s? Why not make it nondescript. So I wasn’t a fan of the 50’s theme, it didn’t work for me. There wasn’t much to the sound or lighting design. The set was clean, and simple and I liked the sky projected thing over the center of the stage. But It just wasn’t as interesting as other Cutting Ball shows I’ve seen.

B: I’m kinda in the same place, mostly because I don’t always love Greek tragedies. The setting it in the 50s for no reason got to me too. But, Phèdre was just amazing, incredibly talented. You should see the show just to see her performance, it’s fantastic.

K: Right! I was like where the hell did she come from!

B: For a play that could be really deadly, corny pun intended, the actors made it come to life.

K: I just feel that for the non theater goer/lover this show didn’t have as much of a cool factor as the other shows we’ve seen them do.

B: I agree with that, I think if you want to see Phèdre, or you like Greek tragedies then you should totally go see this. If you are someone who is not a theater goer…

K: This would be rough.

B: It is a hard play, and although a very solid production, it may not be what everyone wants to see.

The Verdict: Do you like Greek tragedies? Go! Like theater enough to wade through some dense language with a powerful female actor? Go! Otherwise this may be one you want to skip.

The Drama Talk: Cutting Ball reliably delivers fresh takes on classic theater. Their season is full of powerful, perhaps misunderstood, female characters who are chafing at the confines of society. In Phèdre, Courtney Walsh presents a compelling portrayal of a women grasping for the things she wants in the only ways she knows how, to tragic results. It’s a very heavy play, both because of the weighty language and impending doom. While Cutting Ball has a bright set and fun 50s costumes to lighten things up a bit, it’s not really clear why it’s set in that era and the staging isn’t as inventive as we’ve seen in Cutting Ball productions in the past. Greek tragedies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a strong cast, and worth a watch if you’re a theater lover.

The Drinks: We have noticed that hotel bars are really making a comeback. After this show we headed a block up Taylor to the 6 week old Douglas Room, which is part of the Tilden hotel. It had a really chill atmosphere and sassy strong cocktails, which was a good combo after the intense Greek tragedy.

Phèdre runs through May 21st at the The EXIT on Taylor. Tickets are $15-$45 and can be purchased on the Cutting Ball website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Encounter – “like nothing I have ever seen.”

Ever since the Curran’s grand-reopening earlier this year, the theater has been bringing some serious theater game, living up to their mission of “presenting bold, daring work”. Their latest show, The Encounter, promised audiences an “epic journey” through the use of the latest in 3D audio technology. Actor and director Simon McBurney’s one-man-show takes audiences into the Amazon rainforest, following the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre.  We had a feeling that this was going to be something special, so off we went for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

theencounter

Simon McBurney in THE ENCOUNTER (Photo by Gianmarco Bresadola)

Katie: This was like nothing I have ever seen. That in itself was magical. There were moments where I could feel myself making a crazy face and thinking “what’s happening, this is so cool”. I have just never experienced storytelling in that way. He (Simon McBurney) was an amazing actor and storyteller. Then you throw in what he did with sound design and it made it a recipe for awesomeness. It was one man on a very bare stage but I really felt taken away.

Brittany: Yeah, it was mesmerizing. It’s also an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand he’s using the story of encountering this remote tribe in the Amazon to critique the consumerism and technological dependence of modern Western society. At the same time, the way he’s able to transport you on this journey is through the use of this amazing audio technology and lighting. There are a few groups in the environmental movement who are exploring how you can use technology to build deeper empathy and concern for places like the Amazon rainforest. That certainly was one goal of this show. While I don’t know if I came away with a concrete way to change my behavior, aside from shunning bottled water, but it certainly gave me a deeper experience of the rainforest. It was a very innovative way to engage people.

Katie: The show presented a lot of interesting questions and ideas on the environment and generally on life. I appreciated the way it encouraged us to challenge our perceptions about the truthfulness of stories we tell, what it means to be alive, and what we should value.

Brittany: Also major kudos to the Curran. When we were walking out I was thinking how unique it is to see a piece like this in a theater this size. It was amazing to see this on a big scale. One little person on this great big stage and he was able to fill it. I feel like you don’t get the opportunity to do that very often. And it was mesmerizing for the 2 full hours.

Katie: I’d have to say that the Curran is really sticking to their promise to be bold and different. I’ve seen some really cool and innovative theater there. Looking forward to seeing what they do next.

The Verdict: SO cool! A very unique and mesmerizing experience. Go! Go now!

The Drama Talk: Simon McBurney did an incredible job transporting the audience to another place. He gets in your head, or at least your ears, through the use of  3D audio technology that is served directly to each audience member via personal headphones found at each seat. The masterful sound design is at once intimate and immersive. The story takes the audience to the Amazon rainforest and the sound design makes you feel surrounded by the jungle, the river, the mosquitos and the swirling voices of the story being told. Technically speaking it was incredible, but beyond the flashy technology, it also was just great storytelling.

The Drinks: A block away from the theater on Geary we checked out the Pineapple Bistro and Bar in the Alise San Francisco hotel. It was a great choice because is was practically empty with plenty of seating and great service. There were lots of pineapple everything, and Katie’s drink even came in a brass pineapple, which felt appropriately jungle themed after an evening in the Amazon.

The Encounter runs through May 7th at the Curran. Tickets are $49-$185 and can be purchased on the Curran’s website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hamilton – “Screaming with joy”

Being a DT&D columnist has its perks. A recent one was scoring tickets to opening night of the national tour of Hamilton, now playing at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Katie was out of town, so Brittany took her boyfriend and frequent guest columnist, Sam, out for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Ruben J. Carbajal as Laurens, Michael Luwoye as Hamilton, Jordan Donica as Lafayette, Mathenee Treco as Hercules Mulligan & the Hamilton Company – photo by Joan Marcus

 

Brittany: Hamilton is this ground-breaking, barrier-shattering show that transcended the musical-theatre world and ended up as part of pop-culture. It feels strange reviewing it, since everyone knows it’s amazing. I will tell you what was surprising for me though; the show felt like a rock concert. Those tweens behind us were literally screaming with joy when the lights went down.

Sam: You don’t get that often, two thousand people thick with adulation. They definitely come in knowing the history and the songs too. I knew about the Hamilton-Burr duel from the Got Milk commercials twenty years ago. It’s a story that has captured popular imagination in one way or another for a while. I do think knowing the music makes it a much more lived experience, where you can stop trying to understand the fast paced lyrics and can instead get caught up in the show. People knew when to cheer, when to “oooh”, it was participatory. Even though I don’t know the music well, I found it helpful to at least have a passing familiarity with the music and the story. I wish I knew it better.

B: I was very happy that I knew the music as well as I did. This show is lyrically deft. They’re constantly spitting lines and there’s a hundred things happening at once on stage. Even knowing the soundtrack well, there were moments I was like “oh my god, it’s all happening so fast, how do I follow everything?”  It felt very fleeting, which in a way was fitting. Life goes really fast and he’s always running out of time.

S: It was really fast. It’s like reading a book and then seeing a movie, although in this case it was hearing the soundtrack and then seeing the play. You have these songs in your head and your concept of what they’ll look like on stage, then the show paints a different picture.  I spent part of the play just reassigning all of these preconceived ideas I had to the actual staging. It was a much more minimalist production than I thought it might be. They made use of very few props, aside from a desk and some paper or a few chairs. But there was also this amazing lighting that bathed the stage and helped direct your attention.

B: One of the most wonderful things about this show is just listening to the soundtrack is a rich experience. I think that’s why the minimal set and props worked so well. The lyrics are so multi-layered, you don’t need anything else. On one level he’s just telling a story, but he’s also talking about American history and referencing hip-hop artists, and referencing musical theatre and theatre history.

S: Loved that Gilbert and Sullivan.

B: And the Shakespeare too, right? And you can’t see those revolving stages and not think Les Miz.

S: This is totally the Les Miz for this generation. My favorite part was definitely the rap battles in Washington’s cabinet between Jefferson and Hamilton. They were at the intersection of all the exciting things going on, policy and personality, smack talk and realpolitik.

B: So you’re like Jefferson? “Let’s get back to politics.”

S: I don’t want to be on record agreeing with Jefferson.

B: That actor (Jordan Donica) was amazing. When you go into the show you hypothetically know that the guy who plays Lafayette also plays Jefferson…

S: Wait, what?

B: …but seeing it is just remarkable. They were two totally different characters. Wait you didn’t realize it was the same actor?

S: No…

B: Well he was that good I guess. Generally the whole cast was amazing. Another thing I didn’t expect was how much this show isn’t just about Alexander Hamilton. It’s also a story about Aaron Burr and in a certain way Eliza, which you don’t really get from the soundtrack. It’s written by storytellers, so of course it makes sense that the storytellers are the ones who are most important in the end. So, would you want to see it again?

S: Oh yeah, absolutely! Not tonight though, I’m exhausted from just watching it.

The Verdict: This show is a phenomenon. Yes, tickets are expensive (unless you’re lucky and get them via rush) but it’s totally worth it to be part of this unique theatrical experience.

The Drama Talk: So much has been written about Hamilton already, how about we just share some tips? This show is fast. If you don’t know the music, it’s probably worth giving the soundtrack a listen before you go, so you’re not having your mind blown with the lyrics while trying to keep up with the action. Even if you know the lyrics well, there’s so much happening on stage it’s hard to take it all in at once. Just breathe and enjoy, you’re finally seeing Hamilton. It’s rare to go to a show where there’s nearly a standing ovation at the beginning and end of each and every song, but this show manages that feat. Embrace the experience and enthusiasm of your fellow audience members as part of the fun. Not only is this show groundbreaking, the experience of seeing it feels groundbreaking. Maybe it’s the moment, or perhaps it’s movement, but either way it’s a great night at the theater.

The Drinks: A new bar/restaurant called Fermentation Lab recently opened up down the street from the Orpheum on Market, so we went there for drinks. The kitchen is closed by the time the show gets out  (if you go before, get dinner – such good food), but they feature a rotating selection of CA craft beers which is a pretty awesome SF way to raise a glass to a fun night of drama talk and drinks.

Hamilton runs until the beginning of August, and SHN recently released a new block of tickets, so there are still seats you can purchase through the SHN website. Tickets prices range from $100 to $868, with a 6 ticket limit per person. If you’re feeling lucky try the nightly digital lottery where $10 tickets are available to each performance.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: You For Me For You – “The craziness of North Korea”

Crowded Fire Theater company has been on fire recently with their bold productions of innovative new works. When we heard they had a new show opening, in their recently renovated space, we knew we wanted to go see it. So off we went for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks in Potrero Hill to catch their latest show and the Bay Area premiere of Mia Chung’s play You For Me For You.

Minhee (Kathryn Han) finds herself on a mystical journey of memory. Along the way she encounters various characters played by Jomar Tagatac. Photo by Pak Han

Minhee (Kathryn Han) finds herself on a mystical journey of memory. Along the way she encounters various characters played by Jomar Tagatac.
Photo by Pak Han

Brittany: That was a very interesting play. There were certain things that I liked a lot. It was interesting to see the one sister (Minhee played by Kathryn Han) essentially travel through her psyche, dealing with her past and coping with the craziness of North Korea . It was also interesting to see the world from the perspective of Junhee (Grace Ng) a North Korean refugee. It gave a the audience a first person POV of what the immigrant experience feels like.  But then there were some things that confused me about the script, like, I don’t think I really understood how the passage of time worked in the play.

Katie: Yeah, that was confusing. I’m not sure why they brought up time at all. It just made my brain try and connect the dots between the two story-lines, which distracted me from truly connecting to the emotional elements of the story.

B: That happened to me too. It was a very intellectual play, and it was intellectually interesting to me, but the part of my brain that was trying to understand exactly what was going on distracted me from getting as emotionally involved.

K: I agree, once the older sister fell “into the well”, the stakes disappeared since I assumed there wasn’t really any going back. I love magical realism, but the extreme shifts this show between the magic and the realism didn’t work for me, I just couldn’t connect with it.

B: I thought it was a very creative and smart play though. I liked the way they interpreted what it must be like for a person who’s new to a country and doesn’t speak the language. There are sounds are coming at you but you don’t know what they are. I also appreciated the way they used the idea of food to create a powerful juxtaposition between life in North Korea, where she had to beg for rice, compared to life in America, where she couldn’t order lunch because there were too many options on the menu. I think I would tell people to go see it because it’s interesting, even if I wasn’t that emotionally invested in it. I thought the actors were talented too.

K: Yeah, the actors were really good. I just think there was something about the structure of the script that distracted me. The production, the new perspectives, the actors were all good, but overall the play as a whole didn’t quite do it for me.

The Verdict: You For Me For You is a very smart play that provides some fascinating insights into life in North Korea, and the American refugee experience. If you want to see a play that makes you think, go see it, if you’re looking for something that makes you feel all the feels, you may want to sit this one out since it’s a little heady.

The Drama Talk: Crowded Fire Theater calls itself “A vital home for fierce, new plays” which is why we love this company. They’re always doing something fresh and interesting, that usually speaks to the moment in which we are living. New plays can be tricky though, because when you try new things they don’t always work, which is how You For Me For You felt for us. It’s a fascinating script that tries a lot of interesting things and makes the audience think. But sometimes less is more, and You For Me For Youin throwing the audience about in time, space and reality made it harder to connect to the deeply emotional story of two sisters trying to save each-other from the trauma of life in North Korea.

The Drinks: We really only go to one bar after a show at the Thick House and that’s Blooms Saloon. It’s close with plenty of seating, cheap drinks, and a sweet view. We can never find a reason to head somewhere else.

For you For Me For You runs through April 1st at Thick House. Tickets are $15-$30 and can be purchased on their website.