Drama Talk & Drinks: A Bronx Tale – “this kind of show is polarizing”

Since Brittany hasn’t been able to go to shows with me lately, I needed an extremely well versed theater-goer to attend the next one. I immediately asked my Uncle Louis, who, along with my aunt, were the first people to ever take me to a musical. We have been to a ridiculous amount of musicals together over the years, our joint favorite being Rent. So off we went for some drama talk and drinks to see this play-turned-movie-turned-musical, A Bronx Tale at the Golden Gate Theatre.

Photo by: Joan Marcus
Photo by: Joan Marcus

 

Louis: I thought the show propelled itself with a lot of energy, but the vehicle for that energy was very formulaic. It became redundant, I’m not sure how many times “look to your heart” can be said in a song. We did see the best quartet of gangster singers in sweater vests that there has ever been. At least now I’ll never forget to look at my heart.

Katie: Not just look at your heart, the songs also told us that you need to follow your heart, listen to your heart, choose your heart. Talk about the ultimate filler songs! This movie did not need to be made into a generic musical. It was disappointing. I guess I thought it was going to be more interesting than it was.

L: What was very interesting was as we walked out the people around us were very quiet, there wasn’t a buzz like I’ve felt leaving other shows. I think this kind of show is polarizing because it is formulaic. Some people loved it because it was familiar, but others that were seeking a moving experience didn’t get that.

K: The things I did love was the set, the lighting, and the actors who did a really great job. The casting was on point. When the writing was specific, the actors were able to create some really nice authentic moments.

L: Overall, to me, it was a really well polished turd. Pretty to look at and the actors were so talented, but this show could have been any show and the songs could have been anyone’s songs. A show like this makes me angry at Jonathan Larson for dying because I think we just had a taste of what he was going to do with Theater. Right now we are left with this formula that, granted, a lot of people seem to love and I’m sure would disagree with me about this.

The Verdict: Our hearts were not moved, however, if you have a 13 year old in your life that you would like to impress, this is a great show for them, otherwise this is one to skip.

The Drama Talk:  A Bronx Tale’s story, based on a play of the same name, made for a popular 1960’s mob film but an awkward and generic musical. I think that’s all we really have to say about that.

The Drinks:  We hit up my go-to bar after a show at the Golden Gate Theater, which is PianoFight.

A Bronx Tale runs through December 23rd at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets range from $56-$256 and can be purchased on the SHN website. They are also doing in-person AND mobile rush tickets for $40, which is pretty cool. Visit this page to find link to the mobile app.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta – “I was mesmerized”

I haven’t seen a Cirque Du Soleil show in about 9 years and Garrett had never seen one. So this year I knew we needed to check out Volta. So off we went to the parking lot of AT&T Park to see what was going on underneath that huge tent.

volta

Katie: Having only seen a Cirque Du Soleil show about insects, I enjoyed the heartfelt, darker tone and mood of Volta’s storyline. I also liked that they explored themes of how technology can be a negative distraction and it can keep us from each other.

Garrett: Having never seen a Cirque du soleil show before, I was thoroughly impressed and entertained. I was mesmerized with what was going on. I liked some of the themes they explored but there were times where the story was hard to follow and didn’t really match was was happening in a scene.

K: Yeah, agreed, but overall I thought it was beautiful. The music, lighting and costumes were so great. The show feels like a concert, but also a dance show and also an exciting athletic event with acrobats and gymnasts.

G: Yeah, the vibe was really cool. The relationship between the performers and the audience is very unique, and different from anything I’ve seen. Everyone’s very encouraging because you understand that what they are doing is dangerous so there is applause when someone does something cool or when someone messes up they get love from the audience. Having driven past those tents hundreds of times over the years, it’s incredible to finally see what’s going on inside, and I like it. They create such a unique environment…you forget you’re in a freaking parking lot!

 The Verdict: Cirque Du Soliel shows are all about spectacle and Volta doesn’t disappoint. Bring a date, bring the fam, this show is for everyone.

The Drama Talk: Wow. How do they do it? You forget how difficult these things are because they make it seem so easy. Tricks off trampolines, with bikes and jump ropes, through hoops and in the air, there were like 100 athletic achievements being done and it was all pieced together with a story of a young man who has lost touch with himself because he’s different. The storyline has some cool, beautiful moments, but overall it didn’t quite feel cohesive. However, the incredible performers, music, and lighting make up for it.

The Drinks: There was free champagne at this performance as well as a bar so we decided not to venture, but if we did we were going to go to the Atwater Tavern since it’s pretty much in the same parking lot.

Volta plays through February 3rd under the Big Top at AT&T Park. Tickets range from $68-$290 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Shout-out

As big fans of Crowded Fire Theater we were really excited to hear about their collaboration with AXIS Dance Company, Star Finch, and Ensemble Mik Nawooj to create a new immersive multidisciplinary experience that merges “hip-hop, contemporary dance, and theater into a boundary-pushing work featuring a 12-person orchestra”. Sounds intriguing right?!

Unfortunately there are only 3 performances over 2 days, which means we won’t be reviewing it, but we felt strongly that a show as unique as this needed a shout-out. We definitely recommend checking it out. We will be.

Photo by Ian Davis.
Photo by Ian Davis.

WHAT:

DEATH BECOME LIFE: BANISH DARKNESS – a future vision by Crowded Fire Theater, AXIS Dance Company, Star Finch, and Ensemble Mik Nawooj

WHERE:

Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre, 4705 3rd Street, San Francisco

WHEN:

November 16, 8:00pm

November 17, 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Tickets $25: Visit www.crowdedfire.org/dbl-banish-darkness for more information and to purchase tickets.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Men On Boats – “It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!”

I knew when I heard about Men On Boats, a play described as “Spinning historical, theatrical, and gender conventions on their heads, this subversive tale of 10 men, four boats, and two rivers contains none of the above”, I needed to go with one of my awesome lady friends. So I brought my friend Kim, lawyer by day, and theater goer by night, to A.C.T’s Strand Theater for a night of drama talk and drinks.

John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne
John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne

 

Kim: If I read this play in script form I would be convinced I would hate seeing it put on stage but actually I was surprisingly pleased, and it was a lot of fun.

Katie: I was very entertained, I really didn’t think I would like this show as much as I did. I mean, we just saw a group of women play narcissistic white men from the 19th century. That sounds annoying to me and yet I really cared about the characters.

Kim: That’s definitely part of the theme that’s going on there. If they had actually been all white men, it would have been impossible to swallow. This all female cast really nailed it, their comic timing was really good. It was very charactery, campy acting throughout, which worked in the context of this play.

Katie: On top of the cast being so strong I was very impressed by the set, lighting, and sound design. You really believed they were in boats on a river to the Grand Canyon. It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!

The Verdict: Very well done new approach to an old narrative. This is storytelling at its finest. Go!

The Drama Talk: The ups and downs of the plot, interesting character development, cool set, and strong all female cast, created a tight and entertaining 90 minute adventure. The story and style of this play creates multiple layers in this show that different people will enjoy. For those who want an entertaining show that will make you laugh, you can come and watch this play and have fun. For those looking to question the patriarchy, manifest destiny, and the power structures in America you this play does not disappoint.

The Drinks: The Strand was serving drinks after this opening night performance, but assuming that doesn’t happen every performance we recommend going around the corner to Mr. Smiths.

Men On Boats plays through December 16th at A.C.T’s Strand Theater. Tickets range from $30-$100 and can be purchased on the ACT website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: On Your Feet! – “walked out on a high note”

I was a huge Emilio and Gloria Estefan fan growing up so of course when I heard their musical On Your Feet! was coming to town it was a must see for me. Also, the Golden Gate theater was shut down for the last 13 months for renovations (you can read more about that here) and the grand re-opening was being celebrated with the opening night for On Your Feet!, so a win win night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Garrett: I walked out on a high note with that energetic closing number. For me, this had moments of being really fun. I appreciated the choreography, colorful costumes and set design, but I felt a little lost because it felt like pieces of a story that didn’t really go together. Things didn’t quite add up for me. It wasn’t really cohesive or meaningful. I guess I didn’t learn anything about her that I didn’t already know.

Katie: I think that speaks to the issue of it not being a well written story. The original songs didn’t move anything forward, and there were also parts of her life they didn’t even go into at all. Like getting pregnant and having a kid, getting married… and when the hell did grandma die? There were things that were set up to be important and things that you were set up to care about that they didn’t include. I just think they tried to do too much that actually wasn’t very interesting. I would have rather seen more more character and relationship development. I just wish this was more heartfelt and unique. They were trying to appeal to a mass audience and throw in some fluff, and it fell flat for me and I LOVE Gloria Estefan.

G: Yeah, you either need to go full fluff or none at all and make it really interesting and they did neither.

K: It was this in between that felt random and forgettable.

G: Maybe they should have focused on the relationship between Gloria and her dad, or her and her sister, or her mother, or her grandma. Instead it was bits and pieces of each one and I ended up not caring about any of them.

K: But the bright side is the renovated theater looked beautiful.

G: Yes it did! New bathrooms, carpeting, and accents all around. It was great to be there and feel like a part of that theater-supporting community. Fun night!

 

The Verdict: This is a fun night out for Gloria Estefan fans, but not so much for those who are not.

The Drama Talk: This show tries to do too much and subsequently doesn’t do much at all. The story structure feels arbitrary and random with original songs that really slow down the pace. The story aside, this show had amazing performances, choreography and music. It’s a shame we left feeling that there was a missed opportunity with this show.

The Drinks: We wanted fun drinks after leaving this fun show so we headed a couple blocks away to Charmaine’s, which is a rooftop bar on top of the Proper hotel.

On Your Feet! plays through October 7th at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets range from $55-$236 and can be purchased on the SHN website. They are also doing in-person AND mobile rush tickets for $40, which is pretty cool. Visit this page to find link to the mobile app. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

 

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: A Walk On The Moon – “I just didn’t feel the gravity of 1969”

I’m one of those people who have not seen the 1999 film A Walk On The Moon, but jumped at the opportunity to see it as a world premiere musical at the American Conservatory Theater. So I grabbed my theater loving friend Lisa and headed to Geary Street for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo credit: Alessandra Mello
Photo credit: Alessandra Mello

Lisa: I grew up in upstate New York and I felt there were mosquitoes in the theater. It had that muggy, New York Summer feel. So I thought the set was beautiful. It wasn’t a show that felt emotional. I was not swept away, and I love romantic comedies and anything sappy. I just wasn’t rooting for Marty and Pearl. I mean, he just sucks, right? I cared more about Walker, and I felt like he got shafted.

Katie: The set and the actors were really the only things good about this show. I didn’t see the movie, so someone who loves the movie might have gotten more out of it, but this show should be able to live beyond the movie. Not only was the script just okay, but the music and the songs felt very generic. I felt like the transformative moments didn’t make sense, and there wasn’t enough relationship development for those moments to payoff. The show felt rushed through those moments to get to the next generic song or movie plot point.

L: It didn’t seem like the music felt of the era, like when they were at Woodstock the music didn’t sound like they were at Woodstock. I feel like the music could have been from any musical. They really had beautiful voices though. Forgive me for being a mansplainer, but have you ever lived in New York?

K: No.

L: Did you understand the setting? Did you get that it was Jewish people in the Poconos?

K: No, not really.

L: Yeah, I think this would play better in New York because it is so regional. There was definitely a Jewish man sitting behind us loving the Jewish humor. But I know most people don’t get it. There were some very New York Jewish things in the show, like a Blackout Cake form Katz deli. I think if we saw it in New York with New Yorkers it would be more well received. How did you feel about the connection between the walk on the moon and their lives? I know I was supposed to really feel that and I don’t think I did.

K: Totally. I felt that the show was grabbing at straws with the walking on the moon thread. It felt forced. A lot of things in this musical felt forced.

L: This is written by a woman, right? I’ve worked in teeny bopper entertainment, so I advocate for young woman being taken seriously, and not to be overly dramatic, but I felt like in general people have a really hard time portraying teenage girls as complex characters who are masters of their own identity. I think young women are so incredibly smart and the teenage daughter character in this show was so abrasive that you didn’t feel for her. I just wanted her to stop complaining. It’s too bad that they made her character annoying.

K: I think this speaks to the directing. The actress played one note and approached the character with the wrong technique of volume equals intensity. I don’t imagine the playwright wrote all her lines to be screamed or for her to be so annoying. So I think that this was a problem with casting or directing.

L: That makes sense. I just, this is a terrible pun, but I just didn’t feel the gravity of 1969 and I thought we were supposed to.

The Verdict: If you are originally from New York, over 60 years old, or a huge fan of the film A Walk On The Moon you might enjoy this musical. If you do not identify with one of those categories, this is one to skip.

The Drama Talk: Can we just stop making musicals out of movies?! No, not going to happen? Okay, well then let’s get more original and creative. Other than the set, the video projections and costume design, this is a very forgettable musical.

The Drinks: A new bar opened around the corner from the theater underneath August Hall called Fifth Arrow. It has food, drinks and games. Worth checking out before or after the show.

A Walk On The Moon plays through July 1st at the American Conservatory Theater on Geary. Tickets range from $22-$100 and can be purchased on the ACT website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

 

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Humans – “People are going to be dissecting this play”

We have been hearing a lot about The Humans since it won 4 Tony Awards back in 2016 and were very excited to hear it was coming to SF. Unfortunately, it’s at a time when Brittany is out of town, but luckily I have quite a few theater loving friends who have been wanting to participate in some Drama Talk & Drinks! So off my friend Renee and I went for her first night of reviewing live theater.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Renee: I thought it was a really interesting show. I felt a nice steady climb of emotions, unlike when I watch a musical and the emotions tend to yo-yo. This show took you through a journey. So I liked it, but it also stressed me out and made me uncomfortable. I feel like I get enough drama in my own family, it was just too relatable to be very enjoyable. There was also no suspension of disbelief, which was hard to sit through.

Katie: I liked it too but was also torn. There were moments I was interested in how real and relatable the story and characters were, but also felt why should I care about these people, and I don’t know if I do. At the end I was left not really caring, and it often felt like I was just listening to a bunch of complaining white people. But I think it was a very accurate slice of life of a middle class family in America and had really good actors. For me the moments where they were all talking over each other felt pretty chaotic in a distracting way. It’s obvious that this was intentional and happens at real family gatherings, and there is something raw and exciting about seeing that play out onstage, but it often took me out of the story.

R: Yeah and what also took me out of the story was the weird sound balance. Especially at the beginning they were projecting too much and it felt like they were shouting at you the whole time. Then I realized at times they were shouting down stairs, but I didn’t think that was necessary.

K: At first I didn’t like the 2 floor set and then later I was into it and appreciated the dynamic it created. It was really interesting to experience a play with a two levels where scenes were happening simultaneously.

R: And the acting was so good! The mom was super relatable, she was my whole family in one person. The random email forwards the mom would send! Such a good detail. But I have to say who would have their whole family over in an apartment with no furniture, that is just not something I would do, so that was hard to relate to.

K: I did like how the play explored multiple generations of the family. I know a lot of people who have aging grandparents, and their own parents are struggling to take care of them. I really think this play is going to be even more fascinating to audiences in like 30 years. People are going to be dissecting this play, while being nostalgic for the middle class that disappeared.

The Verdict: This play is a well done extremely real life glimpse into the modern American Family. Definitely worth experiencing.

The Drama Talk: We agree that The Humans is a well told story that explores “aging, illness, and a changing economy”. The incredible performances and the eerie but realistic two story set added to the feeling of being a fly on the wall in a shitty New York City apartment at an actual Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes the too realistic style of characters speaking over each other and conversations happening at the same time interfered with connecting to the story. Also, their struggles were at times hard to empathize with, considering it was a white, middle class family. Though we didn’t leave this show beaming, we did leave it reflecting on what it means to be a human in America.

The Drinks: We wanted a chill not crowded bar to digest this intense play, so we walked down to 7th and Market to Mr. Smiths, which is typically chill on a weeknight and luckily it was.

The Humans plays through next Sunday 6/17 at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets range from $40-$110 and can be purchased on the SHN website. They are also doing in-person AND mobile rush tickets for $30, which is pretty cool. Visit the show’s homepage to find link to the mobile app. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

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