Drama Talk & Drinks: Inked Baby – “needles and the thought of giving birth”

I’m always excited when a night out is at Crowded Fire Theater. I find that the shows they produce always leave me moved to thought. Seeing the west coast premiere of Inked Baby was no different.

Photo by Adam Tolbert
Photo by Adam Tolbert

Lisa: First I thought this is odd (referring to the first scene of the play where one of the characters is having sex with her brother in law because her sister in infertile) there is another way to do that which is above board. You can even DIY impregnating someone. Despite that hangup I really enjoyed it. I am starved for culture so at this point I can enjoy almost any show I see. However, I am very squeamish when it comes to medical things, can’t handle needles or the thought of giving birth.

Katie: Me too! But I thought that plot point of a community of color being taken advantage of was very relevant, I mean look at what is currently happening in the Bayview. Before they revealed the contamination of the community the characters live in, I didn’t get where the play was going and I felt that the tone and world of the play felt inconsistent. But, overall I found myself very interested in what was going to happen next. But at times the writing felt unnatural.

Lisa: I thought the play was really interesting and very thought provoking. I also liked the way the stage was set up and I liked the transitions. I wanted to leave the theater and understand what was real and what was not, which didn’t really happen for me, but that’s okay.

The Verdict: Thought provoking, disturbing and yet entertaining. Give it a watch. Leave time to process after. It’s a quick 90 minutes with no intermission.

The Drinks: We went to our favorite Potrero Hill dive bar, Blooms Saloon. Cheap drinks and expensive views. Great place to process a Crowded Fire Theater show.

Inked Baby plays through October 5th at Potrero Stage. Tickets are $15-$35 and be purchased on the Crowded Fire website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Shout-out

caveman play

We’re finally getting back to the theater! Excited to see Faultline Theater’s Caveman Play tonight!

When I read the description that: “when you arrive, you will enter into a cave. In a cave, there are many different seating options. Ever dream of sitting on a comfy log? We got you. You want to lounge on a pillowy fur? Done.” I knew this was a show to check out.

WHAT: “An interactive comedy in which we are given an opportunity to go back to the moment when humanity had a choice. One path led us towards global warming, institutionalized racism, and snapchat filters. The other path led mostly to being eaten by tigers. Is it time to admit that we chose wrong? You decide!”

WHERE: Z Below @ Z Space

WHEN: July 11th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th & 20th

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased HERE.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hamilton – “I never wanted it to end”

I can’t remember a musical phenomenon bigger than Hamilton: An American Musical. I know people of all ages and backgrounds who love this musical, while still claiming they are not “theater people”. This show is rare and special. Even though I had seen it the first time around, I could not miss a chance to see it again. So I grabbed one of the biggest Hamilton fans I know, and we headed to the Orpheum Theatre for some drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Katie: I am still in awe that even after listening to the soundtrack a million times and having already seen it, I was on the edge of my seat. This show moves fast, there are a lot of words and a lot going on in every scene. I think knowing the words and having seen it before, I saw things I didn’t see the first time. From the staging happening on the second level of the set, to the choreography. I never wanted it to end. This is a masterful musical-storytelling-experience.

Garrett: Having been my second time also, I continue to be impressed with everything about it. I forgot how beautiful the movement is of each scene as well as all the design aspects of the lighting and the set. The design of each scene seamlessly changes and there’s very minimal set designs, but they pull this off better than anything I’ve ever seen in that style. I forgot how good the second half was, it really brings everything together and allows the story to end on a truly emotional note. I think a highlight for me, was the actor who played Hamilton. He was so good! I think he stole the show. It really is a rock concert meets hip hop, meets Broadway, meets story telling and a history lesson.

Verdict: You haven’t seen Hamilton!? Don’t throw away your shot and go see this show! ;) You’ve already seen Hamilton!? It’s just as good, and I would argue better, the second time around.

The Drinks: We checked out a new Speakeasy a couple blocks away called The Pawn Shop. If you want the entertainment to continue this is a good place to go after a show.

Hamilton plays through September 8th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the SHN website and range from $95-$325. They are also offering $10 tickets at each performance through a digital lottery. Here is the link to the app where you can enter.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Come From Away – “I did feel the love”

I had some family who saw Come From Away on Broadway and loved it. So I was really excited that it was coming to town. I was intrigued to see how the true story of 7,000 passengers stranded on a Canadian island following 9/11 was turned into a musical. So off we went to the Golden Gate Theater for some drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Garrett: I think that this was a super unique, creative way to look at 9/11. I like how it told a story of something you didn’t really know happened, and that it took place outside the typical stories in New York. It was fascinating, and it had some really strong elements to it. I like that each actor played multiple characters, and multiple story lines were going on. But I was a little distracted by some of the asides in certain moments, but for the most part I liked the characters and their stories. I kept thinking to myself during it, could this be a straight play without music? Probably not, because although the songs were forgettable, the energy and rhythms did help it come to life.

Katie: I really wanted to love it. I can’t quite put my finger on why ultimately I did not, but I found myself not really caring about the characters until more than half way through. It was difficult for me to get into the story and the music being mostly ensemble pieces that felt random didn’t help.

G: It did have a slow start and it got better as it went on. It had a hard time finding it’s tone and it’s mood because it was trying to be funny at times but I didn’t laugh once.

 K: Me either.

G: A couple moments I smiled, and there were laughs in the crowd, but for me it didn’t land. I did love the minimal set and how they just moved chairs around to create the scenes. All the sudden they are on a plane, then in a bar and then on a bus. They did such a great job with that. For whatever reason I was feeling love for all people and all things during this performance. I don’t know if it was the mood I was in, or the whiskey from the bar, or the subject matter…but I just wanted everyone to get along and be happy.

K: I didn’t get lost in the story. I felt like it was trying to be a crowd pleaser and played it pretty safe. But the actors did a great job playing multiple characters and yes, I did feel the love.

The Verdict: Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Then this is a special yet emotional yet refreshing musical to see and worth checking out.

The Drinks: We wanted a chill bar to process this 9/11 tale. So we went a block up the street to Biig. No loud music, barely any people and delicious cocktails.

 Come From Away plays through February 3rd at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the SHN website and range from $70-$250. 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: When the Puppets Were Having Sex…

For this DT&D we’re handing it back over to our original poster, Ariel! He and is mom checked out NCTC’s Avenue Q!

NCT Avenue Q puppets

Hi! I’m Ariel and I used to post here. I’m stepping out of my Mission Mission retirement to check out a show that I’ve always been curious about, Avenue Q. On a cool SF winter night I took my mom out for drinks and a show at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

Mom: Well, walking down into the basement, seeing such nice, modern design underneath Market Street was really fantastic. I really liked that the theater was small and intimate.

Ariel: Yeah, and once they shut the theater doors you could be anywhere, totally ready for wherever the show is going to take you. Well, I love musicals, I love urban stories, I really like puppets. But I was still a bit hesitant at first, like could I really watch them sing for a couple hours?

M: And did it work for you?

A: It did! I think the cast was good, the characters are all very different, interesting and engaging, had charm and charisma, even if they were gross or weird.

M: I really liked the set, how they used different levels of it.

A: You know I’m a sucker for the gritty city vibe.

M: I know, I am too. The songs had good rhythm, everyone was bouncing around. And the show wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. I did get offended a couple of times though.

A: Huh. Well, the racism song definitely has an outdated view of what racism is.

M: The references to suicide felt a little too insensitive. I know that was the purpose of a lot of it, but it was too much for me personally.

A: I did like that the two bad news bear characters at first tell the protagonist, Princeton, to make bad choices seemingly in the pursuit of fun, but ultimately, by the end, it’s purely destructive. To me it would have seemed irresponsible to not show us where that behavior goes. It didn’t go as far as The Happytime Murders, which I didn’t see but I heard wasn’t good, or Meet The Feebles. I also worked on a movie where puppets were having sex and doing drugs and stuff, so I appreciate the instinct, but also appreciate that they didn’t go too far. It wasn’t just let’s see what we can get a puppet to do.

M: I thought that the Asian character was a little too exaggerated. Her husband was like a big Jewish guy, right? But he was also just a guy, he had other stuff, but she always seemed stereotypically Asian. Her character stood out that way.

A: And when Eimi Taormina finally had her big number she was really great. How responsible are you to resolve all of the topics that you bring up to get people to react? Like the gay issues, they really worked through and I feel like they resolved it. Not with every issue though.

M: I thought Danya El-Kurd was so intriguing. She wasn’t really looking at the audience, but she was still so expressive in her face. She was very empathetic to the feelings of the puppet. I was in and out with Kamren Mahaney as an actor. Sometimes I felt like his presence overpowered the puppet.

A: I had that thought too, he was great, but sometimes it seemed like he wanted to throw the puppet aside and take the stage. I wasn’t sure how much of that was a choice, by him or the director, because he was the lead. I was curious how they made choices about the human vs. puppet presence. At first I was finding myself focused on the person, but by the second or third song I was switching to the puppet. There was interesting character work.

M: when the puppets were having sex, the acting of that, the physicality, was great.

A: I loved Chelsea Carruesco’s voice for the character of Kate Monster, I really liked the character and she had a really nice singing voice. But she was quieter than the other actors, her voice didn’t carry out as far. Even though it was a small theater, they had to play over the puppets too. She was a little more inward and subdued. So even though I loved her voice, I wish that she had sung out more.

M: I always like in any kind of performance the performers come out into the audience, I really liked when they did. It made us all feel like little kids, getting to be up close with the puppets talking to us. So, would you send people to see it?

A: I would, for sure.

M: Would you send people who enjoy comedy? Or musicals?

A: I think musical theater is for everybody. I could see people being turned off by puppets, or singing, or theater, but I think this show is for anybody. This doesn’t feel like a niche kind of experience.

M: No, and it ought not to be. And San Francisco has great theaters, for now. I would definitely send my friends.

 

The Verdict: It’s a really fun, if dated, show and this cast was a blast.

The Drinks: We had a flight of delicious rums at Kaya alongside some amazing Caribbean food.

Avenue Q plays through January 6th at NCTC  inside 25 Van Ness (just North of Market). Regular tickets start at $39 with group discounts and rush tickets available.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The People’s History of Next – “about everything and nothing”

I recently ran into an old friend who told me about TheatreFIRST, a theatre company in Berkeley that is “an art-as-activism organization investigating new models of equitable representation through our development-based new works process”. I think it’s so important that theater be more inclusive to people of color, women and the LGBTQ community and it’s great that they are approaching that in a really intentional way. I was excited to check out their original play The People’s History of Next which was developed with “Bay Area high schools, colleges, and community centers through listening circles, writing workshops, and media foraging”. I wanted to see this with someone who also values diversity and youth voices. So Nisa, an arts nonprofit colleague of mine, and myself headed to Berkeley for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

phon.fb_

Nisa: This show had a Black Mirror, meets Farenheit 451, meets Sense 8 sorta feel. They touched on some important topics like school shootings and racism and sprinkled in a little dystopia. I think there were interesting things done with movement, which was really cool, and they explored trauma in an interesting way. Then there was also a Matrix oracle type character, and discussions about the past, present and future. It was a lot to digest. The young actors did a great job with the words they were given. I don’t know how this was developed with high school students and how their words came into play but it did feel very much like an adult took young people’s words and kind of manipulated it. Maybe manipulated is a harsh word, but It felt like a touch of youth and a lot of adult. And I didn’t believe the words coming out of the youth’s mouths sometimes. Also I find it weird that the Jewish White girl gets the majority of the spotlight and there was this whole thing with her background and Jewish traditions that just didn’t quite make sense. The premise of this play really could be the start of a joke like a black boy, an Indian girl and a Jewish girl walk into a theater, you know. Anyway, I feel like there is something there. There are messages clearly there, and there’s artistry there too. Felt very much like performance art.

Katie: Totally, and performance art often doesn’t inspire or move me. I didn’t feel like this show invited me in. It felt like it was a story that only the people involved in creating it got something out of. There was just a lot of yelling and talking at us. It was the moments when the characters were talking to each other that were the most intriguing. The art direction and visual elements were really cool. My issues were not with the actors performance, the set or the projections. It was the story, which was very disconnected most of the time, and when I feel disconnected it’s hard for me to be moved.

N: Yeah, and I think what added to that feeling of disconnection was the sound effects. They were used to shock us into feeling a certain way. The story is what should have carried us to feel that certain way.  Also, the use of technology was forced. They mimed having a phone in the beginning and then in the end they had a real phone.

K: Right! One of my biggest pet peeves is when miming is inconsistent. A world was created that didn’t make sense for them all to be miming having a cell phone.

N: Honestly, I don’t understand what my takeaway was supposed to be and the whole time I was like “where is this going to go?”. And yeah, I know all the shit that’s happening right now, and these are important issues but it felt like these issues were thrown in a blender and I couldn’t understand what the main message was. The show was so focused on being deep, that they missed it.

K: To use words from the play, it was about everything and nothing.

The Verdict: Intriguing idea and approach, but a confusing end product. Definitely check out TheatreFIRST, but maybe wait until the next show.

The Drinks: We saw a matinee and bars weren’t open yet near the theater. So we went for a delicious Mexican mocha at Fertile Grounds Cafe.

 The People’s History of Next plays through December 22nd at Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$30 sliding scale and be purchased on their website.

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.

  [related-posts]

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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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Color Purple – “Sing like a dream”

Ever since we saw the 2016 Tony Award performances of The Color Purple cast we’ve wanted to see this show. From the heart wrenching plot, to the big gospel voices, to Oprah’s love, we were excited to see if this revival lived up to all the accolades it had garnered. When we saw the Broadway tour was making its way to SHN’s Orpheum Theatre, we decided to head out for an evening of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.  Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE.

Brittany: They had such good voices. The first act was depressing. It’s awful how terrible people can be to each other. White people are terrible to people of color. Men are terrible to women. Women are terrible to other women. Basically everyone is just terrible to each other. Then the second act redeems it all. I love the message of – no matter how much shit you go through you can be resilient – that’s pretty amazing.

Katie: Masterful singing for sure. The music didn’t quite meet my expectations though. The majority of the songs sounded so similar to one-another. I can’t remember any of them for the life of me. I enjoyed some of the duets and harmonies, when the songs showed an emotional range, but even those aren’t that memorable.

B: Yeah, the songs weren’t that catchy. That’s part of why I liked the second act better, the songs were more varied. The first act was basically all gospel, which every-single-person in that cast could sing like a dream, but there wasn’t much variety.

K: The show was beautiful and moving, I was entertained, but I wouldn’t need to see it again. For me I saw The Color Purple and I’m good. Also, story-wise it was really fucking sad and then all the sudden it wasn’t. The complicated painful relationships were too easily cleaned up and reconciled, which felt really weird to me.

B: I didn’t understand Celie’s transformation, I don’t get what it was that made her flip from being passive, to suddenly willing to stand-up to her abusive husband. I just didn’t see that transformation happening until it already happened.

K: For me there was something really contrived about this musical. It felt like someone made a musical out of this well known book and movie just to make a musical.

B: This was totally made with the understanding it would probably make a ton of money, which you can kind of tell…I feel like the musicals that are really special, the ones that you can’t get out of your head, are the ones written by people who are hungry and brave and don’t necessarily know that their piece will be successful. With this musical they thought “It’s The Color Purple, people will come.” I still think people should see it though. Everyone in the cast was amazing.

K: Agreed, definitely a show worth seeing.

The Verdict: A sad but beautiful story told by actors with amazing talent, heart, and voices. Go see it!

The Drama Talk: While The Color Purple is neither of our favorite musicals, this is still a great production. The cast has unbelievable voices. Some of the performances are inspiring. In all, it was an engaging and impressive show, like so many of the Broadway tours. While the happy-ending feels a bit far fetched, it’s nice that the show doesn’t leave you in the pit of despair it puts you in during the first act. Although we didn’t leave the theatre humming any of the tunes, it was still a great and memorable night of drama talk and drinks.

The Drinks: After this rollercoaster of a musical we wanted to go to a bar that was chill and loungy. Luckily 2 blocks away in the Twitter building there is Dirty Water, which is often not very busy late night and weekends and is full of couches.

The Color Purple plays through May 27th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets range from $55-$246 and can be purchased on the SHN website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) – “storytelling you have to work for”

After five years of Drama Talk & Drinks, we realized we had never reviewed a show at one of the premiere theaters in SF, A.C.T. It seemed like a good time to start, particularly with opening of Father Comes Home From the Wars, a play new play by Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Suzan-Lori Parks. So off we went to A.C.T for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones), Hero’s surrogate father—place bets over whether Hero will accompany The Colonel to the Civil War in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater April 25–May 20, 2018.
Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones).

Brittany: I loved the first two acts. The staging was beautiful and the Greek chorus was cool. The third act, after the intermission, lost some momentum for me. I was weirded out by the talking dog. I think they were going for an Odysseus thing, but it jumped the shark for me. Still very much worth seeing, but be prepared for a bit of a let down at the end.

Katie: There were definitely some cool moments, but I didn’t love the preachy, greek tragedy, lots of monologues format. I was interested in the story and cared about the characters, but it was a 3 hour show…I guess I’m a product of a generation of really short attentions span, but it felt long. I also agree the third act was not as strong as the first two. At first it wasn’t even clear that the Greek chorus was playing different characters, and then when the dog-human ran out it totally took me out of it.

B: I didn’t mind all the monologues because they were performed by really strong actors, but you’re right, it was a long first act.

K: Agreed. The actors were incredible. The set was cool and artistic too.

B: I liked how they used the lighting and the shadows.

K: I appreciate that the play explored some pretty provocative topics too.

B: Definitely some very interesting subject matter. I think that’s why I was okay with the length of the play. Watching the characters explore the legacy of slavery in the United States and the struggle for black Americans to be valued when the dominant white culture only sees value in a black person if they can be owned was some powerful stuff. I think it was a valuable play in that way. I just really wish they didn’t have that dog character.

K: This is for people who love meaningful theater and storytelling you have to work for, but it’s totally worth it. I enjoyed myself.

The Verdict: It’s a long and heavy show, but very well acted, well staged, and well worth seeing.

The Drama Talk: Father Comes Home From the Wars is thought provoking. It’s the kind of a play you’re engaged in while it’s happening, and then when you think about it after the fact you start to realize all the clever things you missed. This is undoubtedly in part due to the extremely good actors who were able to keep the audience with them in the moment. The dramatic yet sparse set and highly contrasted lighting design provided just enough of a canvass to give the scenes shape, while still allowing one’s imagination to fill in the detail. Yes, it’s long, but it’s also smart, and totally worth checking out.

The Drinks: It was late by the time we got out of this 3 hour show, so we wanted somewhere chill where we could discuss what we just saw AND have cocktail and a snack. Luckily Bartlett Hall was open and had all of the above.

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) plays through May 20th at the ACT’s Geary Theater. Tickets range from $13.50-$115 and can be purchased on their website.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Gangster of Love – “Really f*cking long”

When we heard about the world premiere of The Gangster of Love, a new play by award winning author by Jessica Hagedorn, which tells her story of immigration from Manila to the Haight during the 1970s we knew we wanted to see it.  Afterall, we love San Francisco, and this was a San Francisco based story. So off we went to the Magic Theatre for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Jennifer Reiley.
Photo by Jennifer Reiley.

Brittany: That was really fucking long.

Katie: What the hell was that?

B: I just don’t understand why they tried to cover so much? I get it’s based on a life story, but you don’t need to see every moment over the course of thirty years.They spent so much time showing different scenes they didn’t actually develop any of the subplots. They seemed to change the set every few minutes.

K: Agreed. The only thing I did care about was those awesome projections.

B: Visually this show was cool.

K: But that was it. I just sat there in confusion, thinking there must be something I’m not getting.

B: I didn’t care about anyone in the show. None of the characters were fully human. There were thirty bizarro plot lines that didn’t go anywhere. They introduce you to an interesting character and then that character never appears again. Meanwhile the girl who played the lead, Rocky (Golda Sargento), seemed to just float through the scenes. Despite the fact she was on stage almost the entire show, I still didn’t get a sense of who she was or why I should care about her.

K: The show did nothing for me. If it had just ended after the first act at least it wouldn’t have been as painfully long.

B: What I don’t understand is how it took that long to do nothing.

The Verdict: Despite some cool staging this is a show to skip.

The Drama Talk: Cool projections and San Francisco subject-matter can’t save a bad play. Neither can good actors if the characters they’re playing are poorly developed and disappear from the story with little explanation. Perhaps because the playwright is primarily a novelist, and she’s dealing with subject matter that hits so close to home, she thought the audience would intuitively understand why we should care about this moody young immigrant poet/musician and her life. Unfortunately the character of Rocky was in some ways the least interesting character in the story. Meanwhile the promising characters who appear throughout her life never get enough time to have an arc.

This is the world premiere of this play, so it’s possible it could be fixed by trying to do less. Fewer scene changes, fewer years covered, fewer characters who appear for only long enough for you to get curious before they disappear, less shoehorned in magical Jimi Hendrix angels. As it is, this play tries to do far too much, and in doing so accomplishes nothing.

The Drinks: After this show we wanted to go someplace fun and relaxing so we checked out a new bar in the nearby Marina district called Del Mar. They have swings for seats, so that did the trick.

The Gangster of Love runs through May 6th at the Magic Theatre. Tickets are $30-$60 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets on Goldstar for $15-$32.50.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Disruption – “you go girl”

A few years ago DT&D interviewed AJ Baker, Artistic Director and Resident Playwright for Three Girls Theatre company (3GT). Despite loving her, and loving the concept behind 3GT (they only produce plays written by female playwrights), it’s been a while since we had seen a 3GT show. So when we heard that AJ’s latest play Disruption was premiering at Z-Below, we knew we had to see it.  So out we went for a ladies night of drama talk and drinks.

 

Sally Dana as Dr. Andrea (Andy) Powell in Disruption at Z Below; Photo by Mario Parnell
Sally Dana as Dr. Andrea (Andy) Powell in Disruption at Z Below; Photo by Mario Parnell

Katie: Wow, I’m happy about how the story ended, but feel some whiplash from how quickly the problem was resolved. It seemed like a very complicated legal matter.

Brittany: Yeah, it was really stressful for most of the show and then it just wasn’t. For a script that at times felt like it was fairly slow moving, it wrapped up very fast. I enjoyed it, even though it was a lot of talk and not much action. I was engaged.

K: There were a lot of good things about this show, but the lack of “action” took me out of it sometimes. The blocking felt unnatural, it was like the actors didn’t have anywhere to move. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed by the dialogue too. Also the connection to the #MeToo movement was a little muddled for me. Given the focus of the promos I thought it was going to go deeper into talking about that movement, whereas it felt more like a side note.

B: That’s true, but I still left with a “you go girl” feeling, so it captured some of the ethos even if it didn’t feel like it spoke directly to the #MeToo moment. I like 3 Girls Theatre, and that they produce plays by women with strong female characters. Disruption was clearly written from a woman’s perspective, and it was interesting to see such authentic female characters. All their reactions, and guilt, and anxieties felt genuine.

K: I agree, I felt like a fly on the wall in a real office and there was something cool about that. I think overall it was authentic and it’s female forwardness was refreshing.

The Verdict: While there’s still some new-play clunkiness to the script and the staging, it’s a compelling story that portrays some very authentic strong female characters. We think it’s worth checking out.

The Drama Talk: It’s refreshing to see a show focused on strong female characters dealing with the kinds of challenges and emotions professional women confront in their lives. While the effort to shoehorn in current events like the #MeToo movement at times feels forced, Disruption still covers some important topics such as the ramifications of sexual harassment, gender bias, and the pressure professional women feel when they try to “have-it-all”. The script at times was a bit wordy, and the staging a bit stiff, however the compelling and authentic portrayals of women kept the show engaging.

The Drinks: After this show we felt pretty empowered so we wanted to go to a cocktail bar with powerful drinks and a high powered atmosphere. We checked our True Laurel and it was both of those things along with some delicious small plates.

Disruption runs through April 28th at Z Below. Tickets range from $35-$55 and can be purchased through their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar from comp-$27.50.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Timon of Athens – “smoking a crack-pipe”

Despite being fancy theater critics, neither of us had ever seen Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.  So when we heard that  The Cutting Ball Theater was doing a production of “one of Shakespeare’s neglected classics, featuring some of the Bard’s more experimental verse paired with some of his best poetry” we knew we had to see it. So off we headed to the TL for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Photo by Rob Melrose.
Photo by Rob Melrose.

Brittany: I don’t know Timon of Athens well, so it was fun to see it performed. There were some really amazing monologues and great Shakespeare insults in there. I thought the actor who played Timon (Brennan Pickman-Thoon) was really impressive. I also enjoyed Apemantus (David Sinaiko) and Flavius (Courtney Walsh), they both had such a strong command of the language.

Katie: When any of the other actors were talking though, they might as-well have been speaking gibberish. Watching a Shakespeare play sometimes feels like watching a play in another language to me, I have to focus so hard to follow along. When actors don’t have command of the language it’s difficult to stay engaged.

B: Totally, if it weren’t for the strong Timon, that would have been a total snoozefest.  Maybe it’s because the ensemble was playing so many parts, but at times it felt like they were just doing caricatures. They didn’t seem get into the language enough to fully develop their characters.  The whole armed insurrection sub-plot was kind of overshadowed by the Timon drama. Then some directorial choices I didn’t fully understand, like the overly sexual guards or some of the weird dance party bits, but I think it’s partially because of an unbalanced cast.

K: The actor (Doug Nolan)  who played the punk-rock dude and the senator drove me crazy. I hate inconsistent accents, and when he was trying to do the southern accent it kept going in and out, and he couldn’t keep up the rocker thing he was trying to do either!

B: The second he started losing his accent I was like “Katie’s going to be so pissed!”.

K: I was! Onto things I liked though, often when Shakespeare plays are set modern times it doesn’t work for me, but this concept worked for me. It added to the story.

B: Yeah, seeing Timon smoking a crack pipe on the street in a homeless tent added context to my reading of the show. The shift he made from being a super rich tech titan who throws Burning-Man-Like parties to being out on the street homeless definitely made an impression.

K: If you love Shakespeare, and want to see a less often performed Shakespeare play this isn’t a bad production. For me, unless I’m seeing all incredible actors I don’t find watching Shakespeare particularly enjoyable.

B: If you like Shakespeare, the guy who played Timon was great, and there’s some great Shakespearean insults that made me giggle. However, it was a very uneven cast and not the best show we have ever seen from Cutting Ball. Good, but not great.

The Verdict: If you’re a Shakespeare fan you will probably like it, otherwise maybe sit this one out.

The Drama Talk: Cutting Ball’s production of Timon of Athens has many things we always love about Cutting Ball shows; inventive staging in a small space, some very strong actors, impressive costumes, and a fresh contemporary feel. However, Shakespeare needs actors to really own the language, and not everyone in this cast was up to the task.

The Drinks: In honor of the extravagant lifestyle Timon led we thought we would go to a fancy place to get drinks. We hit up Market street’s newest a rooftop bar (fancy right?) called Charmaines. We probably aren’t swanky enough for it’s swanky atmosphere, and the drinks were not cheap, but it was a fun place to end a night of theater.

Timon of Athens runs through April 29th at Exit on Taylor. Tickets are between $35-$50 and can be purchased on the Cutting Ball Theater website.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Saturday Night – “Such a dick”

We’re always up for a Saturday night of musical theater. When we heard local theater company, 42nd Street Moon, was putting on a Stephen Sondheim musical we hadn’t heard of before, called Saturday Night, we decided to check it out for Drama Talk & Drinks.

The Company of Saturday Night. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio
The Company of Saturday Night. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio

Brittany: I just don’t think Saturday Night is a show that necessarily needs to be done again. I like 42nd Street Moon, and appreciate that they are trying to preserve these lesser known shows from the American musical theater canon, but…

Katie: There’s a reason why some of those shows are lesser know and don’t get produced. They just aren’t good.

B: Exactly! I love Stephen Sondheim and I was surprised that he wrote something this mediocre.

K: So mediocre. If they weren’t so earnest I’d have thought it was a parody making fun of how lame musicals can be.

B: I almost started laughing at the finale when the cops started singing along too. I thought “oh my god, is this a joke”. They had a cool set and good costumes, but you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Not a good show.

K: The story was terrible. I didn’t care about anyone. I mean, the lead character, Gene, was such an asshole.

B: He was such a dick! Why would anyone feel bad for him? He does so many shitty things and virtually shows no remorse. Yet, for some reason all his friends are behind bailing him out because he’s dapper. Gross white male privilege on display.

K: I just don’t get it. The story was terrible.

Verdict: This was a fine production by 42nd Street Moon, it’s just a terrible play. This is one to skip.

The Drama Talk: If you’re also fed up with entitled whiny white men, who feel like they should be allowed to do anything to get what they feel is owed to them, then you too will agree that this is a show that’s better left to be forgotten. While 42nd Street Moon has a noble mission to “celebrate and preserve the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre” there are some musicals that aren’t worth being celebrated or preserved. The cast of Saturday Night did their best with a dud of a show. As always 42nd Street Moon had impressive production values and held true to a traditional interpretation of a classic musical. However their true-to-the-script interpretation left us with a fairly well done production of a bad show. Not a worthwhile use of a Saturday night.

The Drinks: We needed a strong drink after seeing this show, so we hit up The Barrel Room a few blocks away. Luckily we weren’t disappointed by the cocktails.

Saturday Night runs through April 15th at the Gateway Theater. Tickets are available through the 42nd Street Moon website and are priced $25-$75. There are also some $22 tickets available via Goldstar.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Reel to Reel – “I was even a little heartbroken at the end”

It’s been quite a while since we’ve made the trek to Fort Mason to see a show at Magic Theatre. When we got notice about the world premiere of John Kolvenbach’s new play Reel to Reel “the story of a fifty-five-year marriage as told through the mundane sentiments of recorded conversations, arguments, and household noises” we were intrigued, so we headed to the Marina for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber
Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber

K: I really loved it. I don’t know if it’s partially because I’m about to get married, so this look at what happens when two people build a life together felt particularly poignant, but it definitely struck a chord. Both in the way it explored the idea of how no one can truly understand someone else’s relationship, but also in touching on the scary idea of what happens when you lose the person with whom you’ve built your life.

B: It was a really heartwarming show. In the final monologue the older Walter (Will Marchetti) talks about these mundane moments which are what made their life together so beautiful, and that’s really what this play is about. These precious innocuous details of everyday life that make up a relationship.

K: They did a beautiful job developing the relationship between the two characters.  I felt very invested. I was almost on the edge of my seat, which is weird since in so many ways it’s a very simple show. It speaks to how well it was written and acted. I was just intrigued.

B: I feel exactly the same way.  If you told me what this play was about – we get to watch the lives of two people with a relatively normal life grow in their relationship over a fifty five year period – I would think it is going to be a fairly dull play. But it wasn’t at all.

K: The humanness of story was so interesting. It was also really well cast. The younger and older version of each character looked like they could be the same person. They also did a good job having consistent physicality and mannerisms. Everyone created such deep characters that they were able to make simple interactions complex. It was interesting, endearing, sad and funny. I was even a little heartbroken at the end.

B: I got teary eyed too. I also appreciated that they did a lot of interesting technical things for such a simple play. The way they used recordings and did live foley effects on stage while playing multiple characters was innovative without being in your face.  Getting to see all those tiny pieces of their life together, and the way they amplified them by amplifying the various sounds of their relationship, made it a really rich story.

The Verdict: Go see it! It would be a perfect Valentine’s date if you’re into kind of thing. Either way it’s generally a very well acted and heartwarming show about love and relationships.

The Drama Talk: It’s always fun when theater pushes you to take particular notice of a sense. John Kolvenbach’s Reel to Reel asks audiences to reflect on simple sounds, and in doing so creates a rich auditory experience that pulls viewers into a more intimate understanding of the life and relationship of Walter and Maggie. Each character is played by two actors who help the story jump around fifty five years of moments in their relationship. While the love story itself isn’t remarkable, it’s the simplicity of the story and the sounds in it that makes this play so poignant.  The cast does a great job creating detailed and intimate characters that draw you into the scene. This combined with the creative use of recordings, live foley effects, and a quick script make for a light and refreshing night at the theatre.

The Drinks: After the show we headed to one of our favorite bars in the city, that also just happens to be at Fort Mason, The Interval to chat about the show. We ordered drinks that were both classic and complex (Brittany got the Improved Calvados Cocktail and Katie got the Hacker Club – we can recommend both) and we toasted to love, sound, and a fun night of drama talk and drinks.

Reel to Reel runs through February 25th at the Magic Theater on Tuesday – Sunday nights. Tickets available through Magic’s website range from $30-$75. There are also some tickets available at the moment through Goldstar starting at $20.

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