Drama Talk & Drinks: Head of Passes – “Bad things happen to good people”

At DT&D we love all theater, but we have a special place in our heart for new works. When Berkeley Rep invited us to a Represent night to see their production of Head of Passes, a new play by the “astonishingly gifted” (e.g. young and talented) playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for Katie, only Brittany was free, so she and her boyfriend Sam went out for a date night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce stars in the West Coast premiere of Head of Passes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

Brittany: Did you like it?

Sam: I did. I feel like everyone in the play was made to represent one of the deadly sins. The son that was obsessed with how they would look to their church friends, Aubrey (Francois Battiste) was pride. The other son, Spencer (Brian Tyree Henry), was sloth. Cookie (Nikkole Salter) was…maybe gluttony…or greed. She was greed, she stole that stuff.

B: But the reason she stole stuff was for drugs which she was driven to because she was molested as a child.

S: Okay fair, but it’s still partially greed. And I guess the dead father is lust. And then the friends…

B: I don’t know if they’re really supposed to be the seven deadly sins. They’re just all imperfect people.

S: Maybe, but the guy, umm Creaker, he was anger. The doctor and Mae were gluttony since they drank all the booze. I don’t know who was envy…maybe Mae was envy.

B: I mean maybe, the play is definitely based in the Bible, but the characters were all too complex to just be emblematic of one sin. It’s a contemporary retelling of the story of Job, just set in coastal Louisiana. In Job people weren’t killed because they were sinful. God was testing Job’s faith. That’s part of what makes the story so tragic. Bad things happen to good people.

S: They didn’t teach Job in my Hebrew school.

B: Probably because it’s such a hard story. No one wants to hear that no matter how good you are, or faithful you are, or whatever, God will still test you and shit will happen.

S: Well the set was fantastic, it was one of the best sets I’ve seen in my life.

B: I really liked the first act. They really captured the cacophony of family drama. The second act was hard though. That final soliloquy is long and intense, and since the actress (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) had to call “line” a few times it lost some momentum.

S: In the pre-show talk the playwright said he added like 100 new pages to the script in the last two weeks. I can’t memorize 10 pages in two weeks, I was impressed she stayed in the moment as well as she did.

B: Definitely, the actress who played Shelah was amazingly talented, but having a prompters voice reading the line flat breaks the momentum no matter what. It was the biggest problem I had with the show. I feel like everyone in the audience was over it by the end. It’s like the Monty Python joke “I’m not dead yet.” She was supposed to die, and it just kept going as the house was crumbling around her.

S: But that was amazing, the set falling apart, and the water. Such cool staging.

B: I agree, but when I went to the bathroom I overheard someone else saying, “Thank God she finally died.” It’s a good show, I really enjoyed it, but the second act needs tightening.

The Verdict: Head of Passes is a promising new work. As always Berkeley Rep has extremely talented actors and designers. Go if nothing else to see a really cool set and well thought out design. By the end of the run (May 24th) it’s going to be great, but give the actors a week to work out the kinks of last minute additions to the script. Be prepared for an emotional night, if that final monologue is done to its full potential there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

The Drama Talk: Seriously, the set is dope. There’s lots and lots of water on stage which makes for really beautiful pictures and interesting sound effects. The show has the intimacy of a living room drama, the epic-ness of a Shakespearean tragedy, and the magical realism of a Kushner all rolled into one. This is only the second time this play has been staged (it was conceived and first performed at Steppenwolf in Chicago, the playwrights home theater), and there are still some kinks particularly in the second act, but McCraney is definitely a playwright to watch. The actors are all extremely talented, particularly Cheryl Lynn Bruce who play Shelah. She has the unenviable task of performing most of the second act alone with one of the most intense monologues we’ve seen in recent memory.

The Drinks: Berkeley Rep has a bar in the theater and since it was opening night they gave us passes for half-off drinks. Who can say no to half-off wine? We got our glasses and went over to the lobby of the proscenium theater and watched the final 15 minutes of Tartuffe on the monitor. One and ¼ of a Berkeley Rep show and half off drinks, not a bad date night.

Head of Passes runs through May 24th on Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage. Tickets are $29-$79 and available through Berkeley Rep’s website. If you’re still under the age of 30 half price tickets are also available for most performances. Those can also be booked online, but you’ll need to show an ID with proof of age to pick up your tickets.



Drama Talk & Drinks: It’s not called fetish theater for nothing

Last Halloween Drama Talk and Drinks reviewed one of the most unique and crazy fun shows we’d been to, Thrillpeddlers’ annual Shocktoberfest. Since Brittany had so much fun at that show, she had to bring Katie back to share in the scintillating fun. We headed to the well hidden Hypnodrome to see the Thrillpeddlers latest production, Jewels Of Paris, for a night of naughty drama talk and drinks.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 11.17.05 AM
Photo by David Wilson.

Brittany: So that was different.

Katie: Very different. Very San Francisco. What I really liked about it was that it’s true community theater. People just coming together to put on a show because it’s fun.

B: They want to get out there and express their crazy selves in front of an audience and have a good time, which you could tell they did. The writing was also quite smart. If you don’t have a basic understanding of artists that were coming up in Paris in the early 20th century you wouldn’t get all the jokes and references though.

K: I didn’t get many of the references so I got uninterested at times, but most of the time there was so much happening between the singing, costumes, makeup, and nudity that I would get reinterested. It’s cool to see something so visually different. Also, I really loved the sad clown (Birdie Bob-Watt) .

B: I felt like they kinda got tied up in the “we’re doing a show about Paris” concept, trying to cover so much and be so smart, they lost some of the fun. The times when they tried to be more serious didn’t really work for me. There were a few actors that had solos that had trouble carrying a tune. But they went for it, and often naked, so props to them. I couldn’t do that. I love that the audiences at this show always get invested with hoots, hollers and claps even if things aren’t going perfectly. It really gives the feeling that we’re all in this together to have a good time.

K: What an interesting venue too. You enter through a parking lot to a back of a building. I pass this building almost everyday and had no idea that there was this theater behind it. Inside is very eclectic. Next time we go I want to get one of the decorated booths in the back, those were neat.

B: Both times I’ve gone to the Hypnodrome I thought I was lost until I walk into the theater.

K: Overall it was precious, but for me they didn’t bring it home. I would really love to see them do something else.

B: I would definitely recommend going to a Thrillpeddlers show, however, I don’t think this is their best work. I enjoyed it, but if you’re only going to see one show, don’t make this your first impression, I think they can do better.

The Verdict: Thrillpeddlers are a sexy uniquely San Francisco theater company. It’s not called fetish theater for nothing, this is for mature audiences only, which is part of what makes it so fun. Although the writing of Jewels Of Paris is very smart, you may miss some references if you don’t have a general grasp of the history of the Paris arts scene. This show shines when it’s at its raunchiest and silliest, but some weak singers and more serious scenes can make the show lose momentum. It’s an enjoyable night, but not quite Thrillpeddlers at it’s best.

The Drama Talk: For mature audiences only. There are penis, boobs, asses – basically all anatomy is exposed at some point, so be prepared to see it all. Don’t go in expecting everyone in the show to be professionally trained or a knockout singer. Some of the cast is very talented, but what some actors lack in training they make up for in heart and willingness to put themselves out there. The costumes and props are very impressive. The writing is smart, and some of the songs are quite catchy. The whole show is written in house making the sketches and songs all the more impressive.

The Drinks: After the show we headed over to 11th for drinks. If you want to keep the raunchy fun going you can always hit up DNA lounge. Or if you’re looking for a more divey party there’s Butter. We were hoping for some quiet cocktails, and since it sounded French we thought we’d try Bergerac. We couldn’t hear ourselves talk over the bizarrely loud DJ, so we bailed and went to Bar Agricole. Brittany got a Tulip and Katie got a Presidente and we enjoyed a classy and quiet drink to wind down the evening.

JEWELS OF PARIS: A Revolutionary New Musical Revue runs through May 2nd at the Hypnodrome Theater. Tickets are $30 gen. admission or $35 for Front Row Seats, “Shock Boxes” and “Turkish Lounges” and can be purchased on their website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

Brittany had to go out of town for work so she couldn’t go with me to see Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, produced by Crowded Fire Theater at the Thick House, which is the first show of their 2015 season. It’s a bummer because I really think Brittany would have liked it. I mean a story about how a brother and sister deal with the loss of their mother and being neglected by their father along with the complications that two teenage boys go through due to becoming more than friends, that is told in a humorous, honest, and touching way – definitely a Brittany show.



The Verdict: This was a refreshing piece of theater! It’s a story I haven’t seen done like this. If you enjoy heart warming, edgy stories that also make you laugh, this is a good time to check out Crowded Fire Theater. I have to admit this play had me almost moved to tears while smiling out loud.

The Drama Talk: It was well produced, with a simple, yet clear, set and the director used the space well. The 3 young characters, though played by adults, were well developed and you really care about them. The actor who played Benji (Maro Guevara) was so good I would swear he wasn’t acting, that it must just be who he is in real life.  I would say however, I didn’t leave wanting more because the show felt a little long.


Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them runs through March 21st at Crowded Fire Theater. Tickets are currently available on Goldstar for $10 dollars for this weekend. You can also get tickets directly from their website.

(Maro Guevara, Nicole Javier, and Wes Gabrillo)

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs


Drama Talk & Drinks: How did those boys jump so high?

Weaned on The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin and countless other Disney musicals, you have to have at least a small soft spot for the magic only The Mouse can provide. True devotees of Disney musicals know however, you have to go beyond the animated features to get the full range of Disney’s prowess. That’s where Newsies comes in; the fantastical musical telling of the true story of paperboys who go on strike in 1899 to protest the unfair treatment they receive at the hands of their big-wig newspaper tycoon bosses. The tour of the Broadway show is playing at the Orpheum now, so of course we had to check it out.

Brittany: Damn can they dance!

Katie: How did those boys jump so high!

B: And flip three times in a row in the air without falling on their head! Seriously by the end I was worried that one of them might hurt themselves. I would collapse after one of those dance numbers, and in the finale they just keep going.

K: Yeah the dancing was ridiculous and amazing. I really loved the second act.

B: Yeah the second act was legit. The first act was a little too Disney corny, but the second act got into the protests and the drama and the really epic songs and set changes. You couldn’t help but feel that swell in your chest when you see four stories of boys dancing and singing in unison about seizing the day.

K: Yeah, you can’t get away from the fact this is a Disney musical. It’s kid friendly and maybe not as cutting edge and some shows I like. But everyone in this show was so talented, the set was dope, and the dancing was just incredible. I wasn’t one of those kids who was super into Newsies, but I was pleasantly surprise by this show.

B: Yeah, me too. And ten year old me would have had the biggest crush on the actor who played Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca)

K: He can sing, dance and act. Yes please!

The Verdict: Newsies has all the Disney magic you could ask for, and a cast of super talented singers, dancers and actors. It’s a Disney musical, make no mistakes about it, but if you can unironically get into some cheering for a singing and dancing underdog in a jaunty paperboy cap you’ll love it.

The Drama Talk: This show is known for its amazing dance numbers and it more than delivers. Seriously impressive choreography, and an ensemble who can pull it all off. Like every touring show, the design and tech are top-notch, as is the the cast. At times the show is a little too predictable and borders on corny. But it’s heartwarming, good for kids, and with just enough Disney magic that you can believe villains may be able to be reformed after all.

The Drinks: Given this is a show about the newspaper industry, we couldn’t miss the opportunity for a newspaper themed cocktail, so we headed over to Local Edition. Katie got the Fidel and Che and Brittany got the Yellow Kid, and we toasted to dancing, workers rights, and a successful night of drama talk and drinks.

Newsies runs through March 15th at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets are currently available on Goldstar for $55 dollars for multiple dates. $40 rush tickets are also available for every performance, beginning 2 hours prior to curtain at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office. Cash only, 2 per person. As always you can get tickets directly from SHN’s website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Sketchfest “you just gotta take a chance”

Sketchfest is upon us! The time of year when all our favorite comedians descend on the Bay Area for three weeks of merriment. Ariel, our DT&D editor, and Sam, Brittany’s boyfriend, are big fans of the 90s American sitcom, NewsRadio so we decided to check out the NewsRadio reunion show as our first foray into Sketchfest 2015.

Brittany: I like NewsRadio, but I don’t think I’m as big of fans as either of you are.

Ariel: When I was in college I obtained raw footage from an entire NewsRadio episode to cut my own episode. And it’s really interesting, when they talked about the musicality of the entrances and exits, for a 3 or 4 camera show it was really hard to cut. You’d imagine for a multi-camera show you can just cut back and forth, but it was so carefully orchestrated, that you couldn’t really cut it a new way. I feel like they took the Kramer entrance from Seinfeld and applied that to the whole show.

B: I was disappointed that there weren’t more cast members there, but I think you still got a sense of what it was like to be on the show.

A: I was bummed that Maura Tierney wasn’t there.

Sam: Vicki Lewis too. I loved Vicki.

A: Maura Tierney to me, maybe because I had a crush on her, she was the heart of the show to me. She was stuck in a world of bumbling cartoon characters.

Continue reading “Drama Talk & Drinks: Sketchfest “you just gotta take a chance””

Drama Talk & Drinks: “I wish she was my grandma…”

If you have grandparents who loved Murder, She Wrote marathons, or if you grew up with an affinity for singing teapots, you can’t help but have a special place in your heart for Angela Lansbury. Who else can make murdering people and cooking them into pies sound so sweet? So, when we heard that at age 89 she was doing a super-limited North American tour of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, we knew we had to see it. So, off we went to SHN’s Golden Gate Theater for a night of laughs, drama talk and drinks.

Katie: Go fucking see this show!

Brittany: IT WAS SO GOOD!

K: If you’re going to throw down some money on a really fun, twists and turns, old-school, straight-play comedy, THIS is where you should put your money, people.

B: It was amazing, and Angela Lansbury is the most adorable, wonderfulest person. I wish she was my grandma. I mean I love my grandmas, but I’d take her as my third grandma any day.

K: Be prepared though, because every time she walks on stage people love her so much they can’t stop clapping. Which was annoying, but I get it.

B: She walks on stage and all you want to do is give her a hug. You can’t take your eyes off her, she’s that talented. Everyone in this show is really talented, but she is exceptionally talented.

K: This is one of the few shows I’d say don’t have a drink before, because you don’t want to miss a thing. It starts off with a lot of British fast wit, and you want to be able to follow it, because it’s hilarious. What I really loved about his play is it wasn’t predictable.

B: There’s a reason some plays survive the test of time. This was written in the 1940s, and it’s still so funny.

The Verdict: If you have the money, or if you don’t have the money go find some money and then see this show. When you aren’t mesmerized by what’s happening on stage, you’re hoping that the scene change doesn’t mean the play is over, because you want it to keep going for another hour. One of the best shows we’ve ever reviewed.

The Drama Talk: The best actors are the ones who you can tell absolutely love performing, and you can tell Angela Lansbury loves being on stage. It’s no wonder she won a Tony for this role. She is phenomenal; you can’t help but watch her and love her. This is a quick, smart, witty play, but with enough darkness and occult elements (it’s a comedy about ghosts) that it doesn’t get saccharine. All the actors are great. With a play this fast you need a tight cast, and they are tight. It’s a national tour, so of course the set and design are top notch. As delightful as this show was, perhaps the most endearing part is watching Angela beam at her curtain call. She really is one of the greats. Don’t miss this chance to see her perform.

The Drinks: We had rock-star parking near the Golden Gate, so we decided to stay nearby and go to The Showdown across the street for drinks. It’s an “Urban DJ Saloon” so, as promised, there was a DJ spinning and an open-mic hip-hop show happening. It was hard to hear yourself over the music, but the drinks were strong and good. Brittany got a martini (since those are the drinks they open the show drinking) and Katie got a gin and tonic, and we yelled excitedly over the DJ about what an awesome show we had just seen.

Blithe Spirit runs through February 1st at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater. At the time of writing, SHN’s website was showing the error “We are currently experiencing high demand for tickets. Please check again shortly.” Since price is variable based on demand, these aren’t going to be cheap tickets. If any are still available you can get yours on SHN’s website. As of right now there are also tickets available on Goldstar.