Get Cultured: Interactive Theater in the Tenderloin, and A.C.T.'s Latest


A bunch of new productions will be premiering around the Bay by month's end, including a pair of new plays at Berkeley Rep, but first up we have a high-budget, fascinating "immersive theater" experience from the Boxcar Theater company happening in the Tenderloin, and a revival of a century-old George Bernard Shaw anti-war play at A.C.T.

First up, The Speakeasy is an ambitious new play and "living video game" produced by the Boxcar Theater at an undisclosed location in the Tenderloin, and directed by Nick Olivero, who helmed their recent production of Hedwig & the Angry Inch. The play features 35 performers, some of whom double as actual bartenders, craps dealers, and waitresses, operating in different rooms of an "underground" space outfitted like an actual speakeasy in 1923. The plot sounds like an ensemble piece about the interpersonal dramas of bootleggers, chorus girls, gamblers and the like. And you, the audience, can actually drink and gamble there -- the place will stay open as a bar and casino during after-performance hours, but during the show the audience will be able to move freely between the multiple rooms, including a "cabaret" where tables can be reserved. Kind of like the long-running Macbeth-inspired Sleep No More in New York, the performances happen repeatedly and simultaneously throughout the spaces, with the actors staying in character and sometimes interacting with audience members. And you will need a password to get in, sent to you along with the address when you purchase a $60 ticket. More info and tickets here.

Over at A.C.T. we're in the middle of the season, and with it brings another co-production with repeated collaborating company Theatre Calgary. The play is Shaw's Major Barbara, a 1905 piece that depicts the moral struggle of a Salvation Army major who initially believes that her charity should refuse a donation from a wealthy munitions manufacturer, who also happens to be her estranged father. The play has seen a few Broadway revivals over the years, including one in 2001 and another back in 1980, and it represents Shaw's own belief that charity can come from any source and still be put to good use. Get tickets here, and Major Barbara will run through February 2.

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