Jean Schiffman

Leticia Duarte, left, and Adrian Deane appear in Theatre of Yugen’s “Helen.” (Courtesy Devlin Shand)

Theatre of Yugen’s ‘Helen’ offers funny, feminist perspective

“Nothing ever happens!” wails the title character in actor-playwright Ellen McLaughlin’s “Helen.”…

Leticia Duarte, left, and Adrian Deane appear in Theatre of Yugen’s “Helen.” (Courtesy Devlin Shand)
Victor D. Ragsdale, left, and Caleb Cabrera are excellent in Crowded Fire Theater’s West Coast premiere of “Transfers.” (Courtesy Adam Tolbert)

‘Transfers’ compellingly asks: Who gets the elite education?

By the time the first scene of Lucy Thurber’s intriguing drama “Transfers”…

Victor D. Ragsdale, left, and Caleb Cabrera are excellent in Crowded Fire Theater’s West Coast premiere of “Transfers.” (Courtesy Adam Tolbert)
Josh Costello has been named artistic director of Aurora Theatre Company.  (Courtesy Scot Goodman)

Changes continue in Bay Area theater artistic leadership

The latest artistic director to be hired at a local theater, amid…

Josh Costello has been named artistic director of Aurora Theatre Company.  (Courtesy Scot Goodman)
From left, Kimberly Scott, Aneisa Hicks and Eunice Woods appear in American Conservatory Theater’s affecting production of “Her Portmanteau.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)

Nigerian family’s conflicting emotions fuel ‘Her Portmanteau’

There’s an exquisite scene in the middle of “Her Portmanteau,” playwright Mfoniso…

From left, Kimberly Scott, Aneisa Hicks and Eunice Woods appear in American Conservatory Theater’s affecting production of “Her Portmanteau.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)
From left, Anne Yumi Kobori, Katie Rubin, Jessica Uher and Norman Gee appear in “Every Day Alice.” (Courtesy David Allen Studio)

Imagination flags in Utopia Theatre’s ‘Every Day Alice’

It’s a great idea for a play: a writer named Alice, who’s…

From left, Anne Yumi Kobori, Katie Rubin, Jessica Uher and Norman Gee appear in “Every Day Alice.” (Courtesy David Allen Studio)
From left, Juliana Lustenader, Kim Larsen, Jon-David Randle and Jack O’Reilly appear in Bay Area Musicals’ “Violet.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz Studio)

Classy performances light up shallow ‘Violet’

First the good news: Bay Area Musicals, now in its fourth season,…

From left, Juliana Lustenader, Kim Larsen, Jon-David Randle and Jack O’Reilly appear in Bay Area Musicals’ “Violet.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz Studio)
Arwen Anderson, left, and Isabel Langen play mother and daughter in “A White Girl’s Guide to International Terrorism.” (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)

Fine acting, contrived premise in ‘White Girl’s Guide’

What might compel a white American teenage girl to join terrorists in…

Arwen Anderson, left, and Isabel Langen play mother and daughter in “A White Girl’s Guide to International Terrorism.” (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)
Jonathan Rhys Williams, left, and Joseph Patrick O’Malley appear in “Creditors” at Aurora Theatre Co. (Courtesy David Allen)

Aurora Theatre stages Strindberg’s intense ‘Creditors’

Many of the works of the dark and often misogynistic 19th-century Swedish…

Jonathan Rhys Williams, left, and Joseph Patrick O’Malley appear in “Creditors” at Aurora Theatre Co. (Courtesy David Allen)
James Carpenter and Ellen McLaughlin play a couple startled by human-sized lizards (Sarah Nina Hayon and Seann Gallagher) in American Conservatory Theater’s “Seascape.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)

MacKinnon kicks off ACT tenure with Albee’s striking ‘Seascape’

What longtime American Conservatory Theater artistic director Carey Perloff was to British…

James Carpenter and Ellen McLaughlin play a couple startled by human-sized lizards (Sarah Nina Hayon and Seann Gallagher) in American Conservatory Theater’s “Seascape.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)
“Border People,” the evocative new solo show by actor-playwright Dan Hoyle, is based on conversations he had with folks of all kinds following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Courtesy Peter Prato)

Enthralling Dan Hoyle becomes border people

Solo playwright-performer Dan Hoyle is such a gifted actor, so transformative and…

“Border People,” the evocative new solo show by actor-playwright Dan Hoyle, is based on conversations he had with folks of all kinds following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Courtesy Peter Prato)
From left, Stacy Ross, Liz Frederick and Zoë Foulks are excellent in Custom Made Theatre's “When We Were Young and Unafraid." (Courtesy Jay Yamada)

Women’s lib comes alive in sensitive ‘When We Were Young’

If Sarah Treem’s engaging 2014 drama onstage at Custom Made Theatre Co.…

From left, Stacy Ross, Liz Frederick and Zoë Foulks are excellent in Custom Made Theatre's “When We Were Young and Unafraid." (Courtesy Jay Yamada)
Front, from left, Sidney Dupont and A.J. Shively dance in Berkeley Rep’s engaging premiere musical “Paradise Square”; in the back are, from left, Jacob Fishel, Daren A. Herbert and Madeline Trumble. (Courtesy Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

Berkeley Rep’s new musical ‘Paradise Square’ involving and overwhelming

“Paradise Square,” the world-premiere musical at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is so emotionally…

Front, from left, Sidney Dupont and A.J. Shively dance in Berkeley Rep’s engaging premiere musical “Paradise Square”; in the back are, from left, Jacob Fishel, Daren A. Herbert and Madeline Trumble. (Courtesy Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre)
From left, Megan Briggs, Amitis Khoroushi and Laura Domingo appear in Exit Theatre’s “Vampire Christmas.” (Courtesy Jay Yamada)

Undead resemble people in ‘Vampire Christmas’

Vampires have issues, too. In Stuart Bousel and Allison Page’s new holiday…

From left, Megan Briggs, Amitis Khoroushi and Laura Domingo appear in Exit Theatre’s “Vampire Christmas.” (Courtesy Jay Yamada)
Joe Barbara, left, and Joey Barreiro appear in “A Bronx Tale” at the Golden Gate Theatre. (Courtesy Joan Marcus)

Wise guys musical ‘Bronx Tale’ could use more dimension

“This is just another Bronx tale,” sings actor Joey Barreiro as Calogero,…

Joe Barbara, left, and Joey Barreiro appear in “A Bronx Tale” at the Golden Gate Theatre. (Courtesy Joan Marcus)
Joshua Chessin-Yudin and Sarah Nina Hayon play relatives with opposing viewpoints in Golden Thread Productions’ “We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War.” (Courtesy David Allen Studio)

Conflict too cool in Golden Thread’s ‘We Swim, We Talk’

A less poetic but more accurate title for Mona Mansour’s quasi-metatheatrical play…

Joshua Chessin-Yudin and Sarah Nina Hayon play relatives with opposing viewpoints in Golden Thread Productions’ “We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War.” (Courtesy David Allen Studio)
Christian Cagigal tells cool tales in the San Francisco Ghost Hunt, a spooky -- and informative -- walking tour. (Courtesy Audrey Penven)

History comes alive in magical S.F. Ghost Hunt

Actor, magician, storyteller extraordinaire Christian Cagigal, owner-operator of the 20-year-old San Francisco…

Christian Cagigal tells cool tales in the San Francisco Ghost Hunt, a spooky -- and informative -- walking tour. (Courtesy Audrey Penven)
Tonye Patano, left, and Lise Bruneau appear in American Conservatory Theater’s “Sweat.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)

ACT’s ‘Sweat’ compassionately deconstructs American Dream

“Three generations of loyalty to the same company,” says Stan (Rod Gnapp),…

Tonye Patano, left, and Lise Bruneau appear in American Conservatory Theater’s “Sweat.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne)
George Saulnier and Virginia Blanco appear in Cutting Ball Theater’s cleverly staged “Uncle Vanya.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz/ Cutting Ball Theater)

An unhappy family comes to life in Cutting Ball’s ‘Uncle Vanya’

The plays of late-19th-century Russian writer Anton Chekhov are so rich with…

George Saulnier and Virginia Blanco appear in Cutting Ball Theater’s cleverly staged “Uncle Vanya.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz/ Cutting Ball Theater)
Briana Walsh appears in Shelton Theater’s production of “Baby Doll.” (Courtesy photo)

Troubling Tennessee Williams’ ‘Baby Doll’ at Shelton Theater

One thing’s for sure: Tennessee Williams loved his female characters -- the…

Briana Walsh appears in Shelton Theater’s production of “Baby Doll.” (Courtesy photo)
African-American Shakespeare Company stages the 1976 classic “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” (Courtesy Lance Huntley)

Fall 2018 Arts Preview: Theater

Musicals, dramas, premieres and revivals are among the season’s bounty of theater…

African-American Shakespeare Company stages the 1976 classic “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” (Courtesy Lance Huntley)