american conservatory theater
San Franciscans know how controversial real estate can be. Especially when you toss race relations into the bidding process. Transmuting the events of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun into a fresh new tale, Clybourne Park starts in 1959 when a white couple sells their home to a black family. Fifty years later, the same house is being sold by a black family in what is now a predominantly black neighborhood. Humans are cyclical creatures, and the hilarious and squirm-inducing debate seems alarmingly familiar half a century later.
Loose of limb and baggy of pants, Bill Irwin charges through Scapin, hitting on a young woman (by admiring her trunk), stuffing his cruel master in a sack, and disguising himself as a red suited ACT patron and crawling through box seats to elude said master's heavy hand with the walking stick of doom.
"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. But I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful that it can't be expressed in words."
Morgan Freeman's Shawshank Redemption voiceover kept rattling around in my head during The Tosca Project, mainly because I wasn't always entirely sure where the thread of the plot went, but I didn't really care because it was so pretty.
American Conservatory's latest proves your average English garden can play host to a maelstrom of romantic peccadilloes, from lovers lurking in the ivy to oblivious would-be lovers shamelessly using not-so-ailing family cats as an excuse to appear each and every day. Round and Round the Garden is Alan Ayckbourn's comic ode to family entanglements, where "family entanglements" equal "Norman the librarian trying to seduce his two sisters-in-law." While he also attempts to cajole his estranged wife back into marital harmony. Predictably, things go south.
Trying to describe Brecht is like trying to follow your Great Uncle Milton as he waxes philosophical over a glass of Hendrick's - undoubtedly important but you're never quite sure where he's going to end up. Nonetheless, here's a brief plot synopsis (you're welcome): A servant girl saves a baby abandoned in war-time. At the end of a journey including soldiers, treacherous mountain passes, and marriage to a dying man, their fate is left in the hands of a cantankerous judge and his chalk circle. Also, there's singing and the occasional violin.
Hope, humanity and justice come to town in the retelling of Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle. Director John Doyle's modern interpretation of the classic finds a cast of disheveled characters creating their own play from the rubble of a war-torn society. Doyle's signature theatricality is complemented by original music from acclaimed San Francisco composer Nathaniel Stookey in a production ripe with romance, plot twists, humor and even a little audience participation.
Greek passion is a fearsome thing. It can also be quite entertaining, especially when a guy two rows down whispers in a rather carrying tone, "Is this supposed to be funny?" (Yes.) Teasing humor from Phedre - the story of a father pitted against his angelic son by his straying queen, with all the ungoverned desire one would expect from a population ruled by whimsical gods - is the mark of people who are very good at what they do. It takes a few moments to sink into the world of verse and highly dramatic Greek princes, but when you do, it's quite a ride.
It’s shaping up to be a Noel Cowardy season. Private Lives is still playing at Cal Shakes, Connie Champagne is singing Coward in her “Songs to Make you Gay” cabaret, “Easy Virtue", an adaptation of the Coward play, recently screened at the SF International Film Festival and ACT will open their Fall season with the U.S. premiere of “Brief Encounter,” Kneehigh Theatre’s production of the play based on the 1945 film. The show wowed London with a blend of theater and film and music and comes to SF in September.