Drama Talk & Drinks Preview: Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here.

Normally DT&D tries to take the guess work out of going to theatre in the Bay Area by providing brutally honest reviews of the shows we see. But we also don’t want you to miss out on what might be a very cool show, just because we haven’t had the chance to review it yet!

With only a two day run of Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here, a playwright-driven community action project created in collaboration with Z Space and the 1 Minute Play Festival, there’s no way we’d be able to review show before the run is over. Given what is currently happening in San Francisco (and even more rapidly the Mission), we thought you might want to see it anyway without our official endorsement.  To help inform your decision here are more details from the event description:

The drastic changes happening to the neighborhoods and communities in the Bay Area is quite staggering. I don’t think the national zeitgeist quite understands what’s happening here. San Francisco is becoming the most expensive city in the world, and it’s at the expense of everyone and everything that makes is special”, says 1MPF Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D’Andrea. Stressing that the work is designed a social “barometer” project to unearth connections in the zeitgeist via themes, ideas, and trends, D’Andrea says, “When we did our annual festival in partnership with playwrights foundation over the past two years, the topic of gentrification was so charged, so present, so immense, that we decided to come back to make an entire other project dedicated to digging into these topics, and what it means for the community. This is our artistic response to what’s happening. It’s part play festival, and part community action.

If that sounds as interesting to you as it did to us, you can check out Moments From The Bubble, Or: How The [Google] Bus Stops Here, this Saturday June 27th at 8PM and Sunday June 28th at 3PM and 7:30PM at Z Below (470 Florida Ave).  Tickets are $20 and available for purchase at http://zspace.org/new-work

We’re going Saturday night, so if you see us, say “hi!” Or if that’s too weird, just let us know what you thought of the show in the comments. Hope to see you at the theatre!

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hookman – “What did that mean.”

Whenever there’s a world premiere in the Bay Area, DT&D wants to give you the scoop, so when we saw the press release for Encore Theatre Company’s latest production, Hookman, an “existential slasher comedy” by Lauren Yee at Z-Below, we knew we had to check it out. It’s the kind of play that makes you want to dissect it over drinks, so BEWARE potential spoilers below, or just skip to the verdict (spoiler: go see it).

Brittany: Soooo, was the whole thing a hallucination?

Katie: I don’t know! I kept going between this must be a dream, to wait no, this is really happening. When it was over I was like “Uhhh shoot, I didn’t get it.” Thank God you didn’t either, because I was feeling seriously stupid.

B: Me too! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, it went by really fast, it was super short…

K: Yeah, like an hour five.

B: And I was engaged the whole time, partially because I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening.

K: Yeah, I was definitely entertained, I just don’t know if I “got it”.  It was really funny at points, then it would get kind of dark and creepy, then in the final scene it gets really serious and sad for a second, but then really quickly gets back to being sort of funny creepy horror with Hookman playing with her phone.

B: Ok, here’s a guess, maybe the moment the first scene ended, and they were in the car crash, Lexi was knocked out or something, and the whole play is her psyche dealing with what just happened, and the phone call at the end is reality calling her back. Like she’s actually in the hospital or something and the phone call is her mom talking to her when she’s in a coma? Could that be it?

K: Maybe, I don’t if I’ve ever had an experience quite like this before, where I leave the show and really don’t know what happened.

B: Yeah, I don’t know…the staging was cool. Interesting lighting, and really creative design for such a small space. That thing at the end though really threw me for a loop, when that crazy girl came out and she was somehow dead too? It was like the little stinger added to make it even more confusing  “You may have thought this was all fake, but it wasn’t! But it was! Here’s some more stage blood! Curtain.”

K: Yeah what was that? Right now I’m sitting here going over the whole show in my mind thinking “what did that mean”.

B: There were definitely interesting and important themes, like what does social media do to us, how does violence and rape culture shape the way women have to interact with the world, how does a person cope with grief and guilt. I appreciated that they touched on all of that, while making it funny, scary and sad at the same time.

K: Yeah…I still just don’t get the ending. Someone seriously needs to go see the play and let us know in the comments section what actually happened. I know the directors notes say it’s supposed to be “hazy” but really this hazy?

The Verdict: The best theater not only entertains but makes you think. Hookman delivers on both fronts. It’s a little gory at parts (there’s quite a bit of stage blood spurted throughout), but as long as you can stand a little horror we think you’ll enjoy this show.

The Drama Talk: Hookman is the sort of show that you talk about to your friends three days after seeing it, because it’s such a mind-fuck. Playwright, Lauren Yee, adeptly explores themes of guilt, grief, belonging and violence against women all through the unlikely medium of a hilarious horror show about teenage girls. Encore creates an almost cinematic staging, with an impressive set for the Z-below space. The cast of supporting actors do a great job toeing the line between believably terrible teenagers and creepy other-worldly antagonists. While a heartfelt performance of Lexi, by Taylor Jones, keeps the show rooted a reality in which you can’t help but empathize with a teenage girl feeling isolated, scared and maybe guilty.

The Drinks: We always love checking out new-to-us places in the Mission, so we went to The Tradesmen nearby for post-show vino and snacks. We sipped rose and tried to wrap our heads around what we just saw, while banishing thoughts of Hookman lurking around the corner ready to strike.

Hookman runs through May 30th at Z-Below (the smaller basement theater at Z-Space). Tickets are available through the Z-Space website and range from $20-30, OR there’s currently super good deals on Goldstar starting at Comp-$15 tickets for select dates.

Drama Talk & Drinks: 36 Stories by Sam Shepard

Fun DT&D fact: Katie, Brittany and I work together at BAYCAT, and one of the most famous shots in cinema history, the hallway shot from The Right Stuff, was shot in the hallway right outside our door. Legend goes that Walter Murch (personal hero of mine) was editing right here in the Dogpatch’s Northern AIC building, and they needed a pick up shot of the astronauts walking in slo-mo to really capture the gravitas. I did a little comparison as “proof” back in 2006, with myself as a piss poor stand in for the mightiest of hero shots.

Anyway, Sam Shepard was nominated for an Oscar® for his role in that film, as Chuck Yeager, the first human to break the sound barrier. Last week Katie & Brittany saw the Magic’s newest take on Shepard’s works. Here’s their report:

Sam Shepard, playwright, actor, director and Patti-Smith-ex, is turning 70. As part of Magic Theatre’s “Sheparding America” festival (Shepard was a playwright in residence at the Magic Theatre in the 70’s), Bay Area theaters are producing a series of shows that celebrate this great American playwright. While other productions are honoring Shepard by performing his plays, Word for Word member Amy Kossow decided to do something a little different. Taking a year to sift through five of Mr. Shepard’s collections of short stories, Kossow created 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, which weaves together Sam Shepard’s shorts about America’s desert highways into a single piece about a writer’s struggle as he searches for inspiration.

Word for Word’s production of 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, at Z Below 5/21/14 through 6/22/14. L to R: Carl Lumbly, Rod Gnapp. Photo by Mark Leialoha

The Writer (Rod Gnapp) has a philosophical discussion with the spirit of the severed head (Carl Lumbly).

Brittany: It was artsy, so I liked it. But, I thought the way the piece was constructed was a bit problematic. It was essentially a play about about a writers’ struggle, but I didn’t care as much about the writer’s struggle, as I cared about the stories he was telling. All the actors were great, and I thought the piece as a whole was really well done. Rod Gnapp did an amazing job with a character I didn’t think was compelling. But it was a little hard to stay fully engaged when the stories kept switching. That being said, I thought it was a really good production, and some of the actors’ individual performances were really remarkable, especially getting to see their range as they played different roles.

Katie: The actors were great but that didn’t help me to care about what was happening. It just didn’t work for me. I don’t know Brittany….I guess I just don’t get it because I just don’t understand how this is entertaining…maybe I just don’t know Sam Shepard enough. The set and the staging were good though. The actor who played guitar was really good and really cute. They should have just turned Sam Shepard’s short stories into songs and he could of just been on stage the whole time singing. I’d be into that shit.

B: I would say if you are interested in seeing a very well acted series of stories, you should go.

K: I would say skip this one.

The Verdict: If you enjoy poetic language and are interested in seeing it very well acted out in a series of stories, this is the show for you. If you know, and like, Sam Shepard’s writing, this is the show for you. If neither of those things apply, this is not the show for you.

The Drama Talk: This is a Bay Area all-star cast. It was well staged, and well performed. Word for Word does plays word-for-word, this means reading stage directions as well, so be prepared for that. Although Shepard’s stories themselves are intriguing, the piece which is used to tie them together is not as strong as its parts.

The Drinks: Everything Sam Shepard writes is a little dark, so after an evening of All-American ennui, we decided to go in for some All-American fun and check out Urban Putt. Brittany got the Seasonal Shandy and Katie got a Calimocho (red wine and Coke, classy), and we watched the many revelers (who waited in line for over an hour on a Wednesday to play putt-putt) take in a Bay Area fantasyland.

36 Stories by Sam Shepard runs through 6/22 at the Z Below, and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $30-$55 depending on how close you are to the stage, but it’s a small theater so any seat is good. There are also ½ price tickets available on Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hundred Days

Here’s the newest dispatch from our vigilant theatre goers, Brittany & Katie. I really love musicals, but I just wasn’t able to join them for this one. That sounds sarcastic when you read it in your head. It’s not supposed to be sarcastic, I really do love musicals. Seriously. Anyway, here’s their report:

We love seeing and supporting new theatre. Especially new works premiering in the Bay Area. One performance space that’s full of innovation is Z Space, a beautiful hub for artists and audiences on Florida Street in the Mission. We were pumped to see their latest world premiere, Hundred Days, “A Folk Rock Odyssey about Love, Life, and Loss”. We were excited for a rockin’ evening of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Katie: The music was amazing, but but the story was lacking! But dammit they were talented musicians and amazing singers.

Brittany: I would totally buy the CD to that musical.

K: Definitely.

B: Really cool music, it reminded me of Mumford and Sons or The Decemberists.

K: Yeah, or the Lumineers.

B: And it’s very different from almost any play I’ve seen. I guess it’s most similar to Tommy by the Who. Or maybe Tom Waits’ musical adaptation of Woyzeck. It’s got songs that you could hear on the radio, and not know that they’re part of a musical, and still enjoy them. The music definitely doesn’t have that “musical” sound to it, which is great. It’s very accessible, it breaks the mold of what you think a musical can be.

K: That’s why I was so excited about it. I love the idea of a musical that I can bring my non-musical theatre friends to.

B: Maybe I’m just a traditionalist though, but I liked that the second act was more like a traditional musical and not like a concert. I didn’t like the first act. They tried to make it like a concert, and that didn’t work for me. I think I get what they were going for, maybe you can bring in a new audience if it doesn’t feel like a play, but the story got lost for me in the first act. I loved the second act. Really cool staging, you got to see the couple living out their life together in 100 days, and you really got to see their beautiful story unfold.

K: Yeah, the first act was rocky. They were acting like they were in a band, and just performing a concert, and very artificially tying in their own story to the play. But It didn’t have the spontaneity of a concert, and all of the banter came off as very scripted and forced. The lead singer was even looking at her script! I loved some of the songs in the first act, but I didn’t care about the in-between commentary or even the acting. I didn’t think they were very believable.

B: It’s strange, because that was actually true. They really are married, and they really are in a band, but for some reason that felt so much more false than when they were just performing the play. I don’t understand why they felt it was necessary to shoehorn in the conceit of an artificial concert. It was so much stronger when they were just telling us the story and letting the play evolve. They were great performers, but maybe not the strongest actors.

K: I don’t know why they had to try to tie their real-life story into the story of the play either. I don’t think it added anything, and it made it feel fake. If this play goes on to be performed elsewhere, by other groups, that’s not going to translate.

B: If the second act had continued to be staged as a concert, I would not tell people to go, but the second act was strong enough, to make it totally worth going. The lighting was amazing, the sands of time design element was really neat, and there was something very sad and sweet about the story they developed in the second act.

K: Agreed. It’s worth it just to see the band. That lead woman’s voice (Abigail Bengson) was RIDICULOUS. I would go to their concert in a second. In the first act the story was lost, and that made it not as strong a play, but still very well done and entertaining.

B: It’s a new play too, and an interesting concept, so I’m sure it will evolve. I had a great time, but there are just some kinks. Their voices were insane, the songs were cool, the staging was cool, but it could still be better. Maybe they’ll take the concert thing further and stage it properly like a concert, or they’ll make the first act fit more stylistically with the second act which was beautiful.

K: I enjoyed myself, it just needs some more development. I liked that it moved, and it left me wanting more. This could be such an amazing piece with just a few changes.

The Verdict: Go see it! The Bengson’s, the band and couple behind this play, are incredibly talented musicians. It’s a fun night of very good music, with some really beautiful lighting and staging to go along with it. Tickets range from $100 for a seat front and center on the couch, to $15 for a seat further back. It’s a loud and visually vibrant performance, so no matter where you sit you’ll have a good time.

The Drama Talk: Hundred Days is unlike most musicals. It feels like a cross between the most epic story time ever and a concert. Although some of the more concert-like elements felt forced, the engaging performances, and a strong second act made this show worth it. The songs could stand alone, and the voices of all the performers made the soulful music come alive. The story is sad, and simple, and sweet, and beautifully told by this talented cast.

The Drinks: They have a great bar at Z Space, and it’s fun to look around their gallery, so since it was a school night we got lazy and just had drinks at the venue. Brittany got a Gin and Tonic, and Katie got Champagne in a can, because that’s the kind of girl she is.

Hundred Days runs through April 6, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7pm, and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $10 but if those sell out, you can always get tickets through the Z Space website.


Drama Talk & Drinks: Urge for Going

With Katie out of town, Brittany took a date and followed up with a commenter to see a new play last week. Here’s her dispatch from the press seats:

David Allen]

A Drama Talk & Drinks reader, connected to Golden Thread Productions, invited us via our comments section to their newest play, the west-coast premiere of Urge for Going, at Z Below in the Mission. Katie was out of town this weekend, but we didn’t want to let a show go unreviewed, or a comment go unanswered. So Brittany decided to enlist the help of a guest reviewer for this installment of Drama Talk & Drinks. Sam Clay, her boyfriend, grew up in a Ukrainian-Jewish household. He also has a theater minor. So who better to take to a show about a young Palestinian girl growing up in a Lebanese refugee camp?

Sam: I thought it was a good show. I thought the text was an excellent place to start, and I enjoyed the world the playwright created.

Brittany: There were definitely parts of the script I liked, but one of the problems with this play, is it was based around a teenager’s conflict with her parents. Part of that was good, because that  made it a more relatable story. What teenager doesn’t fight with their parents? This script placed that everyday conflict in a heightened environment which was interesting. At the same time it was a teenager arguing with her parents. Which is just annoying to watch.

S: It was a universal conflict, and I related to it. Also, on the Jewish side, they talk about all these same struggles, just from a different perspective, and hearing this perspective was interesting for me.

B: I thought the set was very well done. The sense of claustrophobia they were able create, because Z Below is such a small space, worked really well for this play. Definitely one the things driving the conflict between the characters is this sense of claustrophobia. Six people stuck living together in one small room, and they can’t get away from each other. It felt like there wasn’t enough room to breath. They created that atmosphere very well.

S: There was something I really liked about the interplay between the characters, particularly the father, Adham, and his brother Hamzi. It reminded me of my family. Getting a little personal, my family is a family of Jewish immigrants. I was the first to not have to live with three generations in the same apartment. So I saw a lot of parallels in the way the play’s family treats each other, which I enjoyed.

B: Yeah, when they were interacting as a family, despite a few line-hiccups, they seemed really believable. The relationships between the characters felt genuine, and you could tell they took time developing the back-stories between the characters, so it had a sense of history. When they broke the 4th wall and went into the chorus sections, I don’t think it worked.

S: I agree with you, I want to stay positive though, because overall I think it was good. I think it’s well done and an important story to hear. I would recommend it to anyone who asks.


The Verdict: Overall an interesting show. Strong believable relationships between the characters, combined with a well done set design, make the show engaging. Although some of the more theatrical elements, such as the chorus, don’t quite work. If you’re interested in seeing a play about a story rarely told, go check this out.

The Drama Talk: Although there are moments that the actors get indulgent, this play paints a vibrant picture of a family struggling to live together as they long for more. Although the conflict between the teenage girl Jamila (played by Camila Betancourt Ascencio) and her parents feels universal, placing this conflict in a Palestinian refugee camp makes it interesting. Golden Thread Productions “is dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities as expressed around the globe . . . [their] mission is to make the Middle East a potent presence on the American stage and a treasured cultural experience.” This play does a good job opening an audience’s eyes to the everyday struggles of a Palestinian family stuck in a country that doesn’t want them, with nowhere else to call home.

The Drinks: We tried to go to Trick Dog for drinks, which is a silly thing to try to do on a Friday night. So we ended up at Southern Pacific Brewing Company. Brittany got the California Blonde, and Sam got the Pale Ale, and cheered to a enjoyable night at the theater.

Urge for Going runs until December 8th, in repertory with 444 Days, a play written by Golden Thread Productions’ Artistic Director, at Z Below. Tickets range from Pay-What-You-Can on Thursdays to $35, with discounts available for students and seniors. You can also get a two play pass for $45. All available through the Golden Thread Productions website.


Drama Talk & Drinks: Hush

Fall is a great time for seeing live theater, as the Indian Summer winds down and temperatures drop into that horrible 50-60° range, warm theaters are a welcome sanctuary. Katie & Brittany are on a roll, seeing all kinds, even though they’ve been overall less impressed than they hoped to be, but more on that later. Here they are with a report from Hush at Z Space:

Andrew Ward (top) and Felipe Barrueto-Cabello (bottom) perform in Hush; photo by Margo Moritz

Z Space is one of our favorite live performance venues in San Francisco, not just because it’s a beautiful warehouse theater, with not a bad seat in the house, and an art gallery in the lobby but also because there is always something new and different. Last week they premiered Hush a dance-theater piece created by the Joe Goode Performance Group. It had been featured on the cover of Theatre Bay Area and has been generally buzzed about, so we were very excited at opening night . . . maybe too excited.

Brittany: There were a lot of good things about this show. They were all really talented dancers. The foley and music was awesome. I loved watching the sound effects happen live. The set was pretty cool. The problem was the story was disappointingly trite, so the piece didn’t live up to the hype.

Like any play, once the plot was established I felt like the relationships between the characters should be driving the piece, but that didn’t happen. They established that there were specific relationships between specific actors, and that those people were playing the same roles throughout the play, but they were so focused on dancing they didn’t let the relationships develop. Great dancers don’t necessarily make great actors I guess. It felt like the piece lacked an emotional through line.

If this same story was told in 30-40 mins, instead of an hour fifteen, I would have probably walked away feeling like this was a perfect dance-theater piece, but for me it dragged.

Katie: Right! Wow, I couldn’t have said it better . . . so I won’t even try.

The Verdict: Do you love, love, love dance pieces? You need to see this show! Are you more into a well told story that happens to have beautiful movement and awesome music, then we don’t think you will be blown away by this piece as a whole.

The Drama Talk: All the elements to make an amazing dance-theater piece were there: talented people, a very awesome space, insane cool music and sound effects, however this was one time the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts. Falling short on the storyline, and indulging in few too many artsy repetitions of dance movements, made the show a little long and as a whole get a little . . . [we so don’t want to say it, because we HATE this word] boring.

The Drinks: Since the characters worked a dive bar we thought it would be best to go to the Homestead a few blocks away. We got our usuals and poured one out for unrealistic expectations.

Hush runs through 10/5 at Z Space, and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary. You can get seats way in the back for $15-20, but the best seats in the house will run you closer to $65-70.