Drama Talk & Drinks: Into the Woods – “Voices like velvet butter”

Stephen Sondheim’s dark take on classic fairy-tales, Into the Woods, has always been a favorite of your DT&D critics. We saw it when we were kids. We obsessively listened to the soundtrack in high school, hoping to get cast as Little Red (Brittany) or The Baker’s Wife (Katie). We even saw the 2014 movie version starring Meryl Streep as The Witch when it came out that Christmas. So when we heard that Fiasco Theater company’s pared down Broadway revival (that originated at Roundabout Theater) was touring to SHN’s Golden Gate theater, we knew we needed to see it for Drama Talk & Drinks.

Lisa Helmi Johanson as Little Red Ridinghood & Anthony Chatmon II as The Wolf. Photo by Joan Marcus

Lisa Helmi Johanson as Little Red Ridinghood & Anthony Chatmon II as The Wolf. Photo by Joan Marcus

Katie: Into the Woods has got to be my favorite musical of all time. It was the first musical I saw as a kid. It is the only musical I have ever acted in. It’s also just brilliantly written. It will always have a special place in my heart and can do no wrong.

Brittany: I love it too. It’s such a great musical. A quintessential Sondheim about how most people kind-of suck and life is messy. This show is so iconic, which means this company had a lot to live up to. I liked some of the decisions they made, it was very creative. But, there were a few places where the more pared down version didn’t quite live up to my idealized image of this show. Particularly in some of the big Witch finale scenes.

K: At first the stripped down -all the actors play multiple roles and instruments-format was a little hard for me too.  I had to really let go of some of my expectations. At the same time seeing it re-imagined was refreshing. I felt like I was watching a group of the most talented people I could imagine suddenly say “hey let’s head down to the basement, grab some rope, a ladder, a sheet and some boxes and put on Into the Woods”. That freshness was neat.

B: I really liked some of the things they did with the music. I’m a total sucker for the actors playing the instruments, and having non-traditional instruments as part of the props and set. There was also just some cool new instrumentation, the almost folk covers of the songs, that was really beautiful. I didn’t miss the big orchestra.

K: Great actors and singers too. Cinderella (Laurie Veldheer) and The Witch’s (Stephanie Umoh) voices were like velvet butter.

B: Yes such a talented cast. They did some clever stuff with lesser characters that was fun too. I loved the new take on Milky White (Darick Pead)!  In choosing to keep it simple and creative the actors were able to play a bit more, which added to the whimsy of the show. However they did lose some of the big magical finale moments that I expect of Into The Woods. I still really enjoyed it, I just love the original so much there were certain elements I missed.

The Verdict: Absolutely go see this show! It’s a creative take on a classic that you don’t want to miss. If you already love Into The Woods just remember to go in with an open mind. There will probably be some things about the original you miss, but this production makes up for it with a fresh new take that will surprise you.

The Drama Talk: Into the Woods is just a fantastic musical. Fiasco Theater company gives this show new life with their stripped-down fast-paced production. With a multi-talented cast,  each of whom plays multiple roles and multiple instruments throughout the show, the company adeptly creates a whimsical story-time feeling that brings the audience into the creative process. While some of the Broadway special effects are missing, the freshness of this production invites new insights into this well loved classic.

The Drinks: After a show at the Golden Gate Theater it’s hard not to go to the Showdown. It’s right across the street from the theater and it’s the no nonsense, no frills, no $14 drinks sort of a bar that is nice to hit up for a nightcap after an expensive night at the theater.

Into The Woods runs through April 2nd at The Golden Gate Theatre. There are $35 both virtual and in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush instructions. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $40-70 (normally priced $60-$105).

Drama Talk & Drinks: Where All Good Rabbits Go – “An actual fucking rabbit”

DT&D always likes the work that local theatre company FaultLine Theater produces (past reviews here, here and here). They do a great job finding intriguing new works and bringing them to life. So when we heard they had a new show opening at PianoFight called Where All Good Rabbits Go we knew we wanted to check it out.

Charlie D. Gray as Julia, Derek Jones as Dorn, and Sugarloaf as Walter in Rabbit Form

Charlie D. Gray as Julia, Derek Jones as Dorn, and Sugarloaf as Walter- photo credit Katie Ravas

Katie: I don’t know what to say right now. I have very mixed feelings. The story was really interesting. I thought the imagery of Walter (Ed Berkeley) turning into a rabbit was really powerful, especially when they had a real rabbit on stage to show the transformation- very cool. But there were some things that just didn’t work for me. Like the transitions with the random ensemble actors, they took me out of it.

Brittany: Those transitions were rough.

K: Right?! They were kinda dancing, but none of them were dancers, so the choreography was out of sync. I don’t really understand the purpose either, aside from giving time for the main actors to do costume changes.

B: I totally agree. If they had been done really cleanly, they may have added to the show. As it was, all they did was distract from what was actually a lovely story. I thought the main actors were good though.

K: Yeah, I warmed up to them. As they got more relaxed, and you got deeper into their relationship, I really felt for them.

B: I really like the script. I think using the metaphor of turning into a rabbit as a way to explore the process of dying, death and how people cope was so clever.

K: Seeing him turn into a rabbit on stage, and to literally watch Julia (Charlie D. Gray) walk out with Walter as a rabbit, an actual fucking rabbit, was such an interesting thing to experience as an audience member. The way they cradled the rabbit and sat there with their arms around it, I honestly felt for a moment like Walter had actually become a rabbit. It was emotional.

B: It was! I was surprised too. When I saw rabbits in the playbill I was skeptical, but it totally worked.

The Verdict: If you can get past the wonky transitions and just appreciate the moving story Where All Good Rabbits Go is worth a watch.

The Drama Talk: We both really enjoyed the script. Exploring the idea of death as a transformation, by watching someone turn into a rabbit, is a very approachable way to deal with some deep subject matter. Also there’s a real rabbit on stage, so no matter what you get some cuteness. There were some opening night hiccups. The hazer they warned us about at the top of the show never hazed. The transitions were strange, and took us out of the show. Overall though, the story was strong enough, and the rabbit endearing enough, that it made for a worthwhile night.

The Drinks: Whenever we go to PianoFight we just end up staying at the bar to get drinks there. Why leave when you have good food, good drinks, and music all just outside the theater door?

Where All Good Rabbits Go runs through March 4th, Thurs-Sat. at 7:30pm at PianoFight. Tickets are $15-$30 on Eventbrite, or  there are currently $10 tickets available through Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Rent – “there were a lot of “rent-heads” in the audience.”

We can’t believe it’s been 20 years since Rent became a thing, and it became a BIG thing. Your DT&D columnists were definitely both Rent-heads and obsessed with Rent in high school. We were so excited for this 20th Anniversary Tour!  Brittany couldn’t make it to the opening, so Katie brought her go-to back up reviewer Garrett, who had never seen the show and was excited to see what all the hype was about.

Rent-20th-Anniversary-tour

Garrett: So, I know this is your favorite musical of all time. How did it hold up?

Katie: Well, 20 years later and this show still has me in awe. It held up really well for me. I struggled with my super-fandom, knowing every line and every single word was annoying because I would anticipate everything. But it’s still the innovative, touching, raw, beautifully belted musical that I fell in love with when I was 15 years old.

G: As a Rent first timer, I’m definitely impressed. I did enjoy the second act more than the first, because I was a little lost in the beginning. Not being familiar with the show, I was trying to figure out what I was looking at, and hearing! It was super emotional, very dramatic and well done in terms of the talent. Great actors tonight. The singing was beautiful and the show had a lot of energy. It definitely sucked me in and kept me entertained, which is always what I’m looking for. And it was really cool to see a show that explored important social topics, which are still relevant today.

K: Who was your favorite character?

G: Hmm, I guess If I had to pick one it would be Mimi.

K: Yeah, I really liked the actress who played Mimi (Skyler Volpe). She made some interesting choices that were more subtle and real. Speaking of choices, I could tell that there were a lot of “Rent-heads” in the audience who know the broadway cast recording like the back of their hands. They would acknowledge with a clap or laugh when an actor changed something from the original performance. I could tell the audience was feeling it.

The Verdict: Rent is the original Hamilton. A must see musical, period.

The Drama Talk: This won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and best Original Score for a reason. It’s a brilliant 90’s rock opera that will make you laugh, think and cry. Tackling social issues, this musical grabs you immediately with its raw, fast paced style. With all of the dialogue sung rather than spoke, the style can be choppy and distracting at times, especially for someone new to the show. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands with this talented cast and rockin’ orchestra.

The Drinks: We stumbled upon a new bar called “BIIG” that hasn’t even officially opened yet. It’s just a block up from the theater and was quite bohemian chic. There thing is having no menu so we just told the bartender our choice alcohol and preferences and they create something unique. And unique felt like the appropriate drink experience after seeing this show.

Rent runs through February 19th at The Golden Gate Theatre. There are both $40 mobile and $25 in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush info. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $60 (normally priced $90).

Save

Drama Talk & Drinks: Fun Home – “The real mixed in with the magical.”

If you follow theater in San Francisco you probably heard about the grand-reopening of the Curran Theater last week, following two years of extensive renovations (creating both more bars and more bathrooms – win!).  Our Drama Talk & Drinks crew was on the scene to see what all the fuss was about. As Jan Whal, KRON 4’s theater critic said “all the best people” were there.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom kicked off the night honoring Carole Shorenstein Hays, the owner of the Curran who spearheaded the effort to revitalize this important arts hub in San Francisco. Noting in his remarks “In San Francisco we celebrate diversity, not just tolerate it” Gavin laid out one of the themes for the evening; San Francisco and its arts community are sanctuaries for all. It was a fitting introduction to the show of the night, Fun Home, a Tony award winning musical based on the graphic memoir (by the same name) written by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home Program Cover - by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home Program Cover – by Alison Bechdel

Brittany: That was a very cool experience. It’s neat to be out tonight celebrating theater, celebrating a play about being queer, celebrating freedom of expression. It feels more important now. It’s also a great story.

Katie: I liked it too. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I’ve listened to the soundtrack and wasn’t that into it, but now I know why. The songs really depend on the strong story, which you don’t really get listening to the CD.

B: It also helps that this production had great actors with great voices.

K: True! I also really appreciated how simple and stripped down the show was. It didn’t rely on big flashy Broadway ballads, but just simple, truthful songs. It was nice. The scene when Alison’s character is in college (played by Abby Corrigan) and has her first sexual experience with a girl was my favorite. It was charming, simple and full of discoveries. Just her, in her underwear, and her date asleep in the bed. It was refreshing to see such a human moment in a Broadway musical.

B: College aged Allison was just so perfectly awkward and innocent. My favorite song was the one with older Alison in the car with her Dad (Robert Petkoff). I loved it. You could just feel the tension between them, and so much love, and confusion, and pain, and excitement too. I thought that was a really great moment for both of them.

K: It was really nice to see a simple, edgy but relatable family story as a mainstream musical finally.  I really think we are there. I don’t need anymore huge generic Broadway spectacles. I want the real mixed in with the magical. That’s when I’m really moved. This show moved me.

The Verdict: The renovated Curran is beautiful, and Fun Home is the perfect play to welcome back this San Francisco artistic hub. Go check it out!

The Drama Talk: The cover of the program (above) has an audience member leaving Fun Home saying “That was exactly like my family! But totally different!” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. By showing an ordinary, yet still extraordinary, life on stage Fun Home helps all of us recognize the value in simple moments. During the pre-show red carpet we got a chance to ask Alison Bechdel what she wanted the audience to take away from the evening. She replied “I’m trying so hard to not be completely despairing right now. We are here, celebrating this thing, while the world is going to fucking hell. It’s very strange. What I would say is that it’s important for us all to keep doing our work. To keep doing the things we love and that are important to us. We have to keep doing that. It might seem trivial but it’s not.”  Theater illuminates, it heals, it helps us empathize, all things we’re going to need a lot of these next few years. Fortunately San Francisco has the Curran back in action ready to be a sanctuary for all.

The Drinks: A big part of the Curran’s renovation is the addition of three new bars  on each level of the audience. In honor of opening night bars stayed open after the show, pouring California wines, and giving the audience the opportunity to snoop around the new space. Fortunately for you, the Curran website says that this isn’t just a one-night thing. They plan to make a practice of keeping the doors open for post-show drinks. So no need to venture far for your drama talk and drinks.

Fun Home runs through February 19th at the Curran Theater. Tickets are available through the Curran website and range from $49-185 depending on where you sit. If you buy a ticket to Fun Home or Eclipsed, the next production slated for the Curran, you automatically become a Curran Club member. A Curran Club membership gives you special access to VIP events, ticket discounts and supposedly other dope deals, so one more reason to catch this show before it’s gone.

Save

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hedda Gabler – “Total girl crush”

Now seems like an important time to revisit critiques of a traditional women’s role in society. So when we heard that Hedda Gabler (the classic Ibsen play about the iconic female protagonist, Hedda Gabler, and her struggle for power and freedom in a patriarchal world) was being performed by the Cutting Ball Theater company at EXIT Theater we knew we had to go out for some drama talk and drinks.

Britney Frazier is Hedda Gabler. Photo by Liz Olson

Britney Frazier is Hedda Gabler. Photo by Liz Olson

Brittany: I really loved it. I have a soft spot for Hedda Gabler since I studied it in college, and she’s such an amazing character. I think they did a great job making it really fast and light, which isn’t easy. The whole cast was really strong, especially Hedda (Britney Frazier), she was amazing!

Katie: Yeah, she was great.

B: She had such a stage presence. Just a half smile, or a slight turn of her head said so much. Total girl-crush. I just loved it. I have no idea if you did, or if I’m just a Hedda head maybe.

K: I don’t know if I LOVED it, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. I did really enjoy how fresh it felt. It kinda reminded me of the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo and Juliet- edgy and artistic. Particularly what they did with the music. It almost felt like they were scoring the play at the beginning which was cool. I’m just not as big a fan of old-school plays like this. I mean Chekhov and Ibsen are fine, but they can sometimes be a slog.

B: I think that’s what they did so well in this production though. That script has some dense language, and normally it runs over two hours. This show was 75 minutes flat. It was fast. They got in, out, and told the story. If you’re a purist you’d probably be upset with how much they cut, but I didn’t really miss anything. They had such urgency to their performances it made the show exciting.

K: True, and it was visually really cool. An inventive set, and great use of such a small space.  I loved the costumes too. Her dresses in particular were beautiful. Hedda was so powerful. She brought this sense of danger and urgency to the show, it was refreshing.

The Verdict: A vibrant and fresh take on a classic piece of theater. Go see it!

The Drama Talk: This production does a great job of distilling the story of Hedda Gabler down to its essence. It feels fresh, while still honoring the world of the play that Ibsen originally envisioned. Cutting Ball pulls the symbolic imagery from Ibsen’s script and manifests it onstage with a minimalist set full of flowers. Britney Frazier does a masterful job as Hedda, bringing to life one of the greatest female roles in theater. Her powerful performance holds the same power over the audience as Hedda holds over the people in her life. While Hedda is trapped in the domestic life that society demands of women, this production does not feel trapped in the past, and makes for a refreshing night of great theater.

The Drinks: After the show we wanted to go somewhere that kept the energy going. We went a few blocks down to Tradition, which if you haven’t been yet is a totally awesome bar, with great drinks and very cool seating (the have private booths you can reserve). Katie got the Grand Hotel and Brittany got the Molecular and we toasted to a refreshing night of drama talk and drinks.

Hedda Gabler runs through February 26th at the EXIT Theater in the TL. Performances are Thursday-Sunday. Tickets, which can be purchased through the Cutting Ball Theater website, seem to go up in price as the run goes on, so go early to get cheaper seats.  Prices range from $27-$45 for General Admission, there are also discount student tickets available.

 

Save

Drama Talk & Drinks: Finding Neverland – “business as usual”

Do you remember the 2004 award winning film with Johnny Depp called Finding Neverland? It’s about the playwright, J. M. Barrie, and the story of writing the original play Peter Pan. We really like the film, which made us excited for the musical adaptation to come to SF. It’s usually either a super-hit or mega-miss when a popular film gets made into a musical, so we headed to the Orpheum Theatre to see which of those this one was going to be.

finding_neverland_production_still_4

Katie: Wow. I’m disappointed. This was a business as usual musical for me. It felt like the producers pulled a lets-just-check-the-boxes and throw together a musical based on an award winning film with a popular story and cash-in. This story and music didn’t move me. There was no soul or depth. I didn’t really care about the characters. The music was super generic. I don’t understand how this got green lit. Maybe this was for kids?

Brittany: I don’t think it was 100% business as usual. There were some interesting and beautiful visuals (which you expect from Tony Award winning director Diane Paulus), but you’re right about the music and the play generally, it felt very cookie-cutter. I liked that they tried to create a fantastical spectacle, but even some of the background video projections were too much, they almost looked like screen savers.

K: Yes! I couldn’t think of a word for those wonky projections but that is exactly what it looked like!

B: The music was the big disappointment for me, it didn’t even match the period of when the show was set. Finding Neverland is set in the early 1900s and it sounded like shitty pop-music. I didn’t like any of the songs.

K: Me either, nothing was memorable. From the first 5 minutes I knew this was going to be generic and corny as all hell!

B: Despite the mediocre score and book though, there were some strong performances. Tom Hewitt, who played the producer, Charles Frohman, and the id-version of Captain Hook was fascinating to watch. Also I was so impressed by the kids in the show. The boys were really sweet and genuine and the boy who played Peter (we saw Ben Krieger) was great! So it’s not like there weren’t good elements to this production but the play itself was not good. It’s just not a very good musical.

The Verdict: Finding Neverland was a miss as far as we’re concerned, but some of the kids in the audience seemed to be pretty taken with the whimsical staging. If you have a kid in your life that loves Peter Pan they may like it, but otherwise we’d say sit this one out.

The Drama Talk: This is a very pretty production with some great costumes, sets and actors, but it stops there. There isn’t a single memorable song. The music and lyrics were done by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, who both worked on the X-Factor (the British American Idol spin-off). They have much more impressive pop-music resumes than they do musical theatre, which may explain some of the terribly corny out of place pop-power-ballads in the show. The Peter Pan story is so well loved that you can’t help but smile when Tinkerbell appears, but the play relies on these easy moments of nostalgia to keep the audience engaged while not creating anything truly unique. We’d rather just see Peter Pan again.

The Drinks: We were tired after seeing this show (it’s a 2 hour and 30 minute show with a 15 minute intermission). We needed to go somewhere we could get a strong and quick drink so we headed to Oddjob on 9th and Mission, which satisfied both of those needs.

Finding Neverland runs through February 12th 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 $75 (normally priced $105).

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Speakeasy – “appreciate where you are in the moment”

For those of you who missed the The Speakeasy the first time around, it’s an immersive play set in prohibition-era San Francisco. It had a sell out run in the TL in 2014. After losing their space, they decided to find a more permanent one to keep the show running. They closed for about a year, did an awesome crowd-funded micro investment campaign, got a space on the North Beach/Chinatown border, and set about to converting it into a real, three times bigger than the original, Speakeasy.  When The Speakeasy officially re-opened we knew we had to see it again, so Brittany donned her flapper dress, and brought Sam with her for a fresh perspective. After the show we stumbled over to Vesuvio to dissect what we had just experienced. We pushed our way into a table with a lovely couple who were also dressed as a flapper and a gangster. As we had guessed, they had also just seen the show, so we asked them to join us for drama talk and drinks.

The Speakeasy. Megan Wicks as Velma. Photo by Peter Liu

Gangster: It was striking how much effort went into transporting the audience. The production value, the set design, the sound design, the different story lines, how immersive it was, I loved it. It’s nice to be able to put away our modern life, put the cell phones away for the night, and just experience something amazing.

Flapper: I agree, I enjoyed having a night out with no phones. The show was so intricate, there were so many things going on, but it never felt forced or fake. We were just comparing our experiences and it was fun because we each got something different out of it. There are so many story-lines, I could see how you could go back over and over again and still see something new. If you spend the night in the casino, you’ll have a totally different night than someone who stays in the cabaret, or watches the dressing rooms. It’s also fun to see a theater performance, with performances in it, so you see the characters on the stage in the cabaret, and then you get to see their back stories and feel like you’re behind the scenes.

Sam: It was also fun to be integrated into the scene in a way that you aren’t normally in theater. You’re an audience member in the cabaret, which is a play within a play, so you almost have to become a character yourself. Everyone dresses the part too, like you guys look amazing, you can’t tell the audience from the actors.

Brittany: I think what’s great about this show, compared to other immersive theater plays I’ve seen, is you really have a hard time parsing fiction from reality. In shows like Sleep No More you know the plot. When you see a character you know who they are and their role in the story. Here you don’t know the story-lines, and you have no idea who is in the play and who is an audience member, which makes the discovery process that much more exciting.

F: Exactly, this is the first time in a long time I’ve left a show and really wanted to talk about. Like, which things did you see, what pieces of the plot do you have, because you only get bits and pieces of the show. We didn’t know how much we were supposed to stick to a structured thing, so we didn’t really move around the space until the second half of the show when we realized there were other rooms. I am sure there is a ton we missed.

B: I think no matter what you’re going to miss something, you just have to appreciate where you are in the moment.

S: So true, I think my favorite part was a scene we watched while we were spying on the office where two actors were performing, and just three of us were watching. No one else got to see that bit of plot, and that made the experience that much more special.

The Verdict: Absolutely a must see. We didn’t think it was possible to like this show more than the first time we reviewed it, but this new space is amazing, the show is tighter and overall the experience is more impressive. Yes, it’s expensive, and you have to budget for some of their delicious cocktails too, but buy it as a gift to yourself. It’s totally worth it.

The Drama Talk: The Speakeasy space is absolutely amazing. The cabaret is beautiful, the bar feels smoky even though there’s no smoke, and you totally feel like a creeper snooping into the ultra realistic dressing rooms and office. It doesn’t look like a set, it looks like a real speakeasy with classic cocktails and all. Since the audience is dressed up as much as the actors you sometimes forget that you’re in a play. This is the real-life version of virtual reality – we felt transported to the 1920s. There are so many different pieces to this production that it’s impossible to see it all. Yes it does still give you a certain amount of FOMO, but honestly it’s just too fun to care. While you don’t leave knowing the full story of any of the characters, you do leave with snapshots into their lives which are powerful. You could easily see this show 4 or 5 times and still not really know what happened, but that is part of the beauty and what should make this permanent run possible.

The Drinks: The Speakeasy is a speakeasy.  So much so you can go to the bar known as Club 1923 on certain nights after the show just for drinks. They have great cocktails, which are way too easy to order. You give them your credit card ahead of time so after your third drink you forget that you’re still paying them when you show your wooden nickle. The booze flows freely, and some audience members were more than tipsy by the end, but if you’re looking for a place for more drinks after the show Vesuvio is stumbling distance from the door.

Tickets for The Speakeasy can be purchased through The Speakeasy SF website and are currently available through March. Although some nights are sold-out there are lots of others that still have space, so if you need a last minute gift you can still book now. Thursday and Sunday shows are $85, Friday and Saturday shows are $110. You can also become a member of Club 1923 if you want to keep going back, and get discounted tickets for you and your friends. Club 1923 is also open on select nights after the show, so if you want to get a sneak peek into the space without committing to the show, you can pay a $10 cover for a night of drinking in a pretty dope bar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Next Time Let’s Take the Stairs – “All these strange people are on a metaphorical elevator ride”

“Darkly comic theater that moves” is how local performance company 13th Floor describes itself. We’re always up to see inventive original San Francisco theater, so when we saw the press release for 13th Floor’s latest show Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs we knew it was time for some drama talk and drinks.

From left, Colin Epstein, Julie Mahony, David Silpa, Zach Fischer and Jenny McAllister appear in “Next Time, I’ll Take the Stairs.” (Courtesy Robbie Sweeny)

From left, Colin Epstein, Julie Mahony, David Silpa, Zach Fischer and Jenny McAllister  (Courtesy Robbie Sweeny)

Brittany: It was beautiful to watch. The movement was mesmerizing. They were really good at integrating lighting, sound and dance to create poetic stage pictures and some fascinating moments. The narrative was so abstract though. I had a hard time getting into the story. It seemed like the characters all had very precise backstories, but I couldn’t really piece them together. I found myself getting frustrated that I didn’t really know what was going on.

Katie: I kept thinking there was going to be a reveal, like oh this turn is going to tell us something. I was hoping for an ah-ha moment, but there never was one.

B: There were moments that I thought I started to understand what was going on, like – okay all these strange people are on a metaphorical elevator ride, and the reason they are all there is because they have some sort of weird painful history, and they all need to be in this space together to be able to eventually get to where they want to go – but I don’t even know if that abstract concept is right? I didn’t know what I was supposed to take away.

K: Exactly, and not being able to connect the story with the movement left me pretty unsatisfied. It was interesting, and the movement was beautiful, but the story fell short for me.

The Verdict: Go to this show for the aesthetics. If you like very abstract, poetic, visual movement-based work you’ll enjoy this performance. If you want a strong narrative with rich characters that tells a moving story, this show doesn’t quite get there for us.

The Drama Talk:  The 13th Floor company is made up of performers who have a strong background in acrobatics and dance, and that is where this show shines.  It’s very clear that all of these actors work really closely together. They move effortlessly through some pretty detailed and difficult choreography. It’s a visually engaging and beautiful piece with some interesting moments, but the storytelling element fell short. Yes, we were engaged, but this piece felt like you should leave with an emotional response, and the storytelling didn’t get us there.

The Drinks: This show is just an hour long, and the show we saw started at 7pm, so we decided to get dinner after the show at Tartine Manufactory. The whimsical space is a good compliment to the show and an appropriate way to end a night of beautiful San Francisco made art.

Next Time, I’ll Take the Stairs runs through this weekend Dec. 18 at Joe Goode Annex. Tickets are available on their website for $15-$40.

Save

Drama Talk & Drinks: Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat – “It was refreshing”

Golden Thread Productions has been on the DT&D radar for a while, but bad timing has stopped us from reviewing one of their shows…until now. They’re wrapping up their 20th season with a West-Coast premiere of Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat by Egyptian-American playwright Yussef El Guindi, so off we went to Thick House theater in Potrero Hill for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

James Asher as Gamal (left)  and Kunal Prasad as Mohsen (right)

James Asher as Gamal (left) and Kunal Prasad as Mohsen (right)

Katie: Wow. What a great story. A good set, good lighting, good acting, and good writing that was deep but also funny. It’s cool to have a theater company focused on stories from the Middle East. I feel like this play offered a well rounded and balanced perspective that often doesn’t get onstage.

Brittany: I agree. It was refreshing to have a show give voice to so many nuanced and authentic perspectives, while still being entertaining. It would be easy for a play that’s dealing with frustration about the way Arab-Americans are represented in American media to get preachy or pedantic. This play stuck to good storytelling and somehow avoided that. I thought that it was a really honest play.

K: I loved the actress who played Noor (Denmo Ibrahim). She was so authentic and in the moment. It was great to watch her find so many discoveries in all her lines. There were moments when she was onstage and I forgot I was watching a play.

B: I loved her too. I also really liked the character of the Sheikh’s son, Hani (Salim Razawi). His monologue emails back from visiting his family in Egypt were really lovely. Overall a pretty strong cast.

K: There just isn’t a reason not to see this show.

B: And it’s cool that it’s Golden Threads 20th anniversary. It’s entertaining, and engaging…

K: It’s unpredictable.

B: It isn’t a perspective you necessarily get to hear a lot either. People should absolutely go see it.

The Verdict: Go see it! It’s a smart, refreshing, and all around engaging night at the theater.

The Drama Talk: This is Golden Thread Productions 20th anniversary year. They are the first American theatre company who is dedicated to focusing on the Middle East and producing “passionate and provocative plays… that celebrate the multiplicity of its perspectives and identities.” Our Enemies does just that. By focusing on three intersecting storylines the show shares the struggle of the Arab American community as it tries to define itself. Families fight and sometimes those who are most like us can be the most frustrating. The heartfelt and multidimensional characters in this play show us how we can sometimes be our own worst enemies.

The Drinks: As is often the case when we go to a show at the Thick House, we decided to head up the hill to Blooms Saloon for great city views and cheap drinks. If you’re looking for a nearby place to get into the spirit of the play though, consider hitting up Pera before the show for some awesome Turkish food. They close too early to be a good post-show option.

Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat runs through November 20th at Thick House. Tickets are $34 for general admission and $24 for students and seniors and can be purchased on their website.Tickets are also available on Goldstar on select nights for $17.

Save

Drama Talk & Drinks: Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks – “Let your freak flag fly”

Halloween season is here! That means it’s time for another year of Thrillpeddlers’ annual Shocktoberfest; a festival of Grand Guignol horror theatre. Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks promises an evening of ‘terror and titillation’, all in the Thrillpeddlers purpose-built horror theatre the Hypnodrome. Never wanting to miss a night of titillating theater, off we went to SOMA for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Pyramid of Freaks

Brittany: I don’t know if I have just been to Burning Man one too many times, or have seen enough Thrillpeddlers shows that I’m a little jaded, but it was so much less shocking than I thought it was going to be. Yes you had some sodomy, some penises, a little bestiality, but it was much more tame than I remember last year’s Shocktoberfest.

Katie: I didn’t see last year’s Halloween show, but I did see another one of their regular season shows, and it was a lot more rated X than this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed this one either. This time I was just super entertained, even if some of the acting was a little rough around the edges, the vignettes were short and sweet and kept me engaged.

B: So true, they didn’t go too far this time, and I think it made it a stronger show.  It’s so fun how much the audience gets into it too. That’s what I love about every Thrillpeddlers show. It’s not just the actors having fun, the audience is having a blast . It’s easy to forgive some pacing issues, and a few too many scene changes, when everyone is having a great time.

K: It’s a great show to see for Halloween. I’m not a fan of horror movies, and don’t love a lot of gore and blood, but even I still had fun. I did have to look down a couple of times, like when he was ripping people’s hearts out literally, but even during the lights out spook show at the end it never went so far I felt uncomfortably creeped-out. It was just a cool different experience.

B: Thrillpeddlers does a great job creating an experience. From the moment you enter the door of the Hypnodrome and hear the pre-show band playing you feel like you enter a different world.

K: It sounds odd, given the subject matter, but I got this warm and fuzzy feeling about the whole show. It’s such a great community. This free spirited attitude of let your freak flag fly, do what feels good, be in costume, sing, dance, hoot and holler, be whoever you want to be. It makes me happy there’s still a community of avant garde San Francisco artists around to put on a fun night of spooky, bawdy, sexual, twilight zoney, old school San Francisco theater.

The Verdict: Looking for something to do this Halloween? Go see this show! Definitely not for kids, or for your friend who can’t sit through a rated R movie, but a great night of sexy scary fun theater.

The Drama Talk: Thrillpeddlers does a great job creating fun, sick, sexy and twisted worlds. Done in the style of Grand Guignol  Pyramid of Freaks is made up of four vignettes with a black out spookshow finale. Great costumes, cool lights, neat special effects and lots and lots of fake blood make for some memorably spooky scenes. Although there are some strong actors and singers, this show is more about the experience than it is the quality of the performances. While all of the vignettes had some good moments, the second one in the series, The Hellgramite Method, written and adapted for the Thrillpeddlers by William Selby, the original writer of the Twilight Zone episode by the same name, stood out as the one that will give you nightmares. In the same way a haunted house can bring people together, by making you grab your friends hand in terror, Shocktoberfest creates community by letting people share in a ridiculous evening of gory sexy Halloween inspired inappropriateness.

The Drinks: The Hypnodrome isn’t near much, so we decided to go back to the Mission to the Armory Club, to continue the night of spooky sexiness. Katie got the Zombie Princess  and Brittany got the Bawd Rye, and we toasted to San Francisco and the wonderful freaks and artists that still make this city great.

Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks runs until November 19th, with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Ticket are available on their website and are $30 for general admission or $35 for the front row or one of the specially decorated “Shock Boxes”. There were tickets on Goldstar, which have now sold-out, but it’s worth checking to see if more become available when you go to purchase.

Save