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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Hedwig and the Angry Inch “a wild interactive rock concert with heart”

When Hedwig and the Angry Inch was on Broadway in 2014 with Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig, we had friends who flew to New York just to see it. These aren’t super theatre nerds either, just people who love this show. So when we heard it was coming to SF with Darren Criss and Lena Hall, we knew we needed to see it. Unfortunately for her, Brittany caught a nasty cold and couldn’t make it the night we had tickets. This gave Katie the opportunity to invite her Aunt Deirdre, an actress whom Katie credits for originally instilling in her a love of the theatre, to join her for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo by Joan Marcus

Katie: So, what did you think?

Deirdre: I thought it was unexpected. I have to admit I liked it way more than I even thought I would. The audience participation was great. It was almost more like being at a comedy club than a broadway musical. I loved all the San Francisco references, it made people feel even more part of it. You feel like you aren’t seeing the same show that you would see in Chicago. At first I wasn’t very sold on Lena’s part (Yitzhak), but I loved her by the end and wanted more of her. I thought Darren (Criss) was truly amazing. His physical abilities, vocal abilities, his humor, his timing. Fantastic.

K: Agreed! He (Darren Criss) carried the show so well, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off Yitzhak (Lena Hall). Even though her part isn’t the center of attention, she was fascinating to watch. I also loved the set, especially the use of the scrim that came down during the song “Origin of Love”. The projections of the animations were freaking incredible. I felt like I was watching the most awesome hour-and-a-half music video.

D: The most powerful moment for me was Hedwig’s last song, where he took off the wig and costume. When he was done, and the lights came up, not one person broke the silence, he did it so well. The whole audience was so taken by that moment; we didn’t clap and it was silent for at least 30 seconds and then the guitarist started playing and they started singing again. Such masterful direction. It was an incredibly touching moment to have that huge audience so moved that they couldn’t clap, they just had to be present in the moment. Amazing.

K: This show went by so fast for me and I love that it had no intermission. I want to see this again with Lena Hall as Hedwig!

D: I got it, here is my tagline for you: “It’s a wild interactive rock concert with a heart, and an amazing pair of gold shoes!”

K: Nice! We can use that.

The Verdict: One word “wow”. This show is moving, funny, beautiful. Get your tickets now. This show is worth every penny.

The Drama Talk: Hedwig and the Angry Inch was all around spectacular. From the story, to the actors, to the direction, to the band, to the set and lighting design, it was truly an amazing show. Literally everyone should go see it, because everyone who was in that audience (which was a pretty diverse audience) seemed to have a great time. It’s not your typical Broadway experience. In fact, at times it feels more like a rock concert or a cabaret comedy show, but the ridiculously talented actors, and amazing production totally live up to Broadway quality. Darren Criss’ Hedwig couldn’t be better, and it’s so clear why Lena Hall won the Tony for this. It’s worth every penny, despite the pricey tickets.

The Drinks: We headed up the street a block to another theatrical venue Pianofight, because we didn’t want the theatrical night to end. We had some wine and listened to an accordion playing duo as we beamed about the show.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through October 30th 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 (Click here for more info). There are also currently some tickets on Goldstar selling for $50-$70.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Brothers Size “There was a lot of yelling”

We love seeing theater that challenges the norm and we had a feeling that Theatre Rhino’s production of The Brothers Size, which is a play about two brothers, the Louisiana bayou, and West African mythology, would do just that. So we headed to the outskirts of the Financial District to the Eureka Theatre for some Drama Talk & Drinks.

Pictured left to right: Lakeidrick S. Wimberly as Ogun, Gabriel Christian as Oshoosi, and Julian Green as Elegba. Photo by Steven Ho.

Pictured left to right: Lakeidrick S. Wimberly as Ogun, Gabriel Christian as Oshoosi, and Julian Green as Elegba. Photo by Steven Ho.

Katie: I’m dying to hear your thoughts.

Brittany: It’s a cool play. I think it is highly likely that those actors did exactly what they were told to do. It was just so slow and so indulgent. They tried to milk every single second of drama out of the play to the point that it was no longer dramatic.

K:  I feel like I was yelled at. The actors stayed at one level of intensity most of the play, and when that happens it really turns me off.  I feel like I lost a lot of the story, which was a beautiful story.

B: Yeah, there was a lot of yelling. The stakes were so emotionally high the whole time it didn’t give the play anywhere to go. I don’t think they were bad actors, I just think they were not given good direction.

K: There was also a lot of huffing and puffing, a technique that actors often over use to indicate they are frustrated or angry, that really drives me crazy.

B: I did really like the movement and physicality of the actors, they were definitely present and focused. Also, the set and sound design were cool. The two brothers had a really lovely moment at the end where I really felt like wow, you guys really care about each other, I felt that emotional connection. But that was just one moment in what should have been a much more moving play.

K: I agree, so many aspects of this production didn’t hit the mark, so for me it makes the whole production meh.

The Verdict: Beautifully written play. Such a great story, just not told in a way that let us fully take in its glory. However, if you are hungry for a show that isn’t the typical narrative, we would say this piece is worth checking out.

The Drama Talk: We wanted to like this show so badly. A cool play, important themes, diverse actors, and a theater company with a great mission, but this production of The Brother’s Size fell short. While there was some good physical work, and a few touching moments, most of the time the actors were acting so hard that they ended up losing the beautiful language given to them.

The Drinks: Since this piece was set in the bayou, we thought some New Orleans-inspired cocktails would be appropriate. Luckily we found that only 3 blocks away on the embarcadero at Hard Water.

The Brothers Size runs through October 15th at the Eureka Theatre. It’s one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. Tickets can be purchased through their website and range from $15-$40. Right now there are tickets on Goldstar from $0-17.50.

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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: 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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