They all had their reasons. Charles Guiteau wanted to be ambassador to France. John Hinckley hoped to impress actress Jodie Foster. And John Wilkes Booth was pushed over the edge by bad reviews.
In “Assassins,” the madmen, sad sacks and wingnuts who have stepped out of the crowd to kill — or attempt to kill — U.S. presidents finally get their say.
The new Shotgun Players production of Stephen Sondheim’s provocative, darkly satirical Tony Award-winning musical creates a rogues’ gallery of historical shooters. Read More
There’s a new Hamlet striding the stage at the California Shakespeare Theater, and he’s a powerhouse.
In the title role of Shakespeare’s monumental tragedy, actor LeRoy McClain is the vital, eloquent center of Liesl Tommy’s gripping new production. Read More
You don’t have to like wrestling to love “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” which gives audiences a ringside seat for the faked fights, outsized rhetoric, and improbably named icons of America’s favorite sports-entertainment hybrid.
Kristoffer Diaz’s visceral satire, currently making its Bay Area premiere at the Aurora Theatre Co., brings big-time wrestling onstage in eminently theatrical style. Read More
Misunderstandings are everywhere in “Chinglish,” David Henry Hwang’s very funny play about an American sign manufacturer trying to do business in China. It’s not that people in this giddy cross-cultural mashup don’t mean what they say. It’s just that no one’s sure how to say it in another language.
So much is lost in translation, and those signs, shown in the first scene’s slide show, are just the beginning: “Watch your step” becomes “Slip and fall down carefully.” And don’t even ask what “Don’t forget to carry your thing” might mean. Read More
“Blithe Spirit” starts with a round of martinis, and the humor that flows thereafter should be as crisp and dry as an icy cocktail.
If the new California Shakespeare Theater production doesn’t hit all the intoxicating high notes in Noel Coward’s “improbable farce,” it still has plenty of wit and elegance going for it. Read More
The Lamplighters turn 60 this year, and the group is celebrating the occasion with a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, “The Mikado.”That’s an ideal choice for The City’s own Gilbert and Sullivan specialists, who have gained a worldwide reputation for productions of the Savoy duo’s works.Last week’s witty, colorful opening-night performance at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek demonstrated why the company has endured through the years. Repeat performances are scheduled through Aug. 26 in Napa, Mountain View, San Francisco and Livermore. Read More
The music is sharp and sassy. The dance numbers jump and jive.
But it’s the stories of Zora Neale Hurston that make “Spunk” come alive in the new California Shakespeare Theater production.
George C. Wolfe’s adaptation of three tales by the great Harlem Renaissance author is driven by the blues, and the pulsing, finger-popping twang of Chic Street Man’s score serves the production well. Read More
No one gets girl power quite like Eve Ensler. The Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, performer and author of “The Vagina Monologues” has spent much of her career writing about, advocating for, and celebrating the lives of women.Yet “Emotional Creature,” her latest theater piece, registers mostly as a miss. Written by Ensler and directed by Jo Bonney, the show, now making its world premiere in a Berkeley Repertory Theatre production, never makes the deep, indelible impact of the playwright’s groundbreaking early works. Read More
Twenty-three years after the trial of Oscar Wilde, another celebrity trial rocked early-20th-century British society. Maud Allan — who starred in Wilde’s “Salome,” and, like Wilde, was accused of being a degenerate — became the focus of a legal battle that was just as sensational as the Irish playwright’s.Allan has long deserved a play of her own, and she gets a brilliant one in Mark Jackson’s “Salomania.” Read More
There’s magic, onstage and off, in the new California Shakespeare Theater production of “The Tempest.” Shakespeare’s late-life romance takes place on an enchanted island, and it feels right at home in the Orinda theater’s beautiful outdoor setting. On opening night, the shipwreck that sets the play in motion was accompanied by chilly winds and a waxing moon. Throughout the play, chirping birds and mooing cows contributed to the island sounds. The surrounding hills give the production, which opens Cal Shakes’ 2012 season, a glorious golden backdrop. Read More
Hostilities are breaking out this month at the Marin Theatre Company. In Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning “God of Carnage,” what starts as a polite meeting between concerned parents gradually devolves into all-out war.
Reza’s sharply written, savagely funny comedy imagines what happens when two well-heeled couples come together to settle a playground dispute between their respective 11-year-old sons.
Talk, of course, only gets them so far. Read More
The laughs come early and often in American Conservatory Theater’s new double bill of “Endgame” and “Play” by Samuel Beckett. There’s pain, and considerable humor, in these endlessly engaging one-acts by the great Irish playwright.
That may come as a surprise to theatergoers who think of Beckett — whose full-length “Waiting for Godot” is a 20th-century masterpiece — as bleak and humorless. These productions, staged by ACT artistic director Carey Perloff, delve into the depths of human experience in ways that are both profound and laugh-out-loud funny. Read More
Playwright Luis Alfaro, whose gripping “Oedipus el Rey” won awards at the Magic Theatre in 2010, returns to Greek tragedy with a new take on Euripedes’ “Medea.” Magic Theatre’s artistic director, Loretta Greco, stages this world premiere based on the myth about a vengeful wife and mother driven to commit an unspeakable crime.
[May 24-June 24. $30-$75. Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F., (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org] Read More
For many San Franciscans, the Tenderloin is a place to pass through on the way to other neighborhoods. In “Tenderloin,” audiences have the opportunity for an extended visit.This new play by writer-director Annie Elias, which made its world premiere at the Cutting Ball Theater last week, is derived from dozens of interviews with Tenderloin residents. Their words yield a raw and often riveting evening of documentary theater.Featuring a six-person cast (who conducted the interviews and play multiple roles), the show doesn’t shy away from the Tenderloin’s problems. Read More
Even when he isn’t dancing, Mikhail Baryshnikov is a graceful stage presence. As the leading man of “In Paris,” the acclaimed dancer — one of the ballet world’s most celebrated stars — is currently making his Bay Area debut as an actor at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. But even his command of movement doesn’t carry this slight, and often static, theater piece. Read More