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: 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.

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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: 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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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: 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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Drama Talk & Drinks: In Event of Moon Disaster “If you want to get to heaven, get out of this world.”

We heard murmurs of a theater company with a kinda funny name, Mugwumpin, doing something pretty cool at Z-Space in Potrero Flats. An immersive theater piece, In Event of Moon Disaster that took audiences to space. We were intrigued. Since Katie was double booked, Brittany took frequent guest reviewer Sam out for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

From left, Stephanie DeMott, Isa Musni and Soren Santos. Photo by Battista Remati (1)
From left, Stephanie DeMott, Isa Musni and Soren Santos. Photo by Battista Remati 

Brittany: So what did you think?

Sam: “If you want to get to heaven, get out of this world.”

B: I don’t know exactly what happened in that play, but it was very cool looking.

S: I mean they made it clear what happened.

B: The people got lost on the moon.

S: Happens to everyone. It’ll happen to you.

B: I don’t know if I walked away with whatever I was supposed to walk away with, but I did find it visually impressive.

S: I loved it. I thought it was riveting the whole way through. I found myself wanted to prolong the scenes because they were so vivid.

B: It moved very quickly between the different scenes and which I thought kept it engaging. There was always some sort of visual stimulation or song or movement that you wanted to watch. I found myself trying to listen very hard, but I was never really sure what they were trying to communicate. It felt more like a dance or poetry piece than a narrative play. There was a story to it, in that there was a beginning, middle, and end, but it was much more of an experience than a play.

S: Well the movement was very poetic. The moon especially had a rhythm to her. With the 360° projections you felt like you were in the orbit of the moon, and part of this celestial dance that they’re performing.

B: Do you think other people would enjoy it?

S: Absolutely! If I were other people, I would pre-game with Stereolab and post-game with Gorillaz. Something a little post-apocalyptic. You’ll come out with an understanding of the deeper resonance—the harmonics—that are coming from the moon and the stars and in, and out, and around.

B: This review basically summarized what the show was like. It’s poetic and somewhat hard to parse.

The Verdict: A very visually cool and engaging experience. Go see it before it’s gone.

The Drama Talk: It’s always fun to see theater that defies description, which is very much the case with In Event of Moon Disaster. This lack of adherence to form is very intentional, refreshing, and part of what make Mugwumpin such a unique and innovative company. It’s a technically impressive show, and very cool to see Z-Below reconfigured and reimagined. They did a great job making the show interactive without being awkward. While we’re not sure we got 100% of what we were supposed to as far as the message, we still really enjoyed ourselves.

The Drinks: There’s something about being in outer-space for an hour that makes you want to get back to the familiar, so we headed over to Docs Clock after the show and toasted to the moon.

In Event of Moon Disaster runs through January 28th at Z-Below  with shows Wednesday-Sunday nights. Tickets are available via the Z-Space website and are $35. A lot of the remaining shows are already SOLD OUT so get over there fast if you want to snag one of the remaining tickets.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Secret Garden “Grief and some ghosts’

The holidays make us nostalgic for childhood. So when we saw that 42nd Street Moon was doing a production of The Secret Garden, we thought what better way to spend a fun holiday night out? After-all, what’s more Christmassy than reclusive uncles, invalid children, and ghosts? So we headed down to the Financial District for some drama talk and drinks.

(L to R) Katie Maupin as Mary Lennox, Sharon Rietkerk as Lily, and Brian Watson as Archibald Craven, photo by Ben Krantz Studios

Brittany: I’m always impressed by the voices of Inflatable water slide for sale Canada the casts in 42nd Street Moon productions. The Secret Garden needs awesome voices. The music is tricky, and really, the pretty songs are most of what this show has going for it. They had the great voices things covered. I also liked the costumes and set. But, while I enjoyed listening to the pretty voices, it’s kind of a weird show.

Katie: The actress who played Lily (Sharon Rietkerk), holy shit, she was incredible. Pretty much spot on to the Broadway recording I listened-to on repeat when I was like 10. Also, the little girl who played Mary (Katie Maupin) killed it. She had the perfect look and voice for that part. Such good casting. Now that I have finally seen this live for the first time, I’ve realized it’s kind of a sleepy musical. Some of the songs are sooo long, and then they reprise them! I would have cut it down a bit. It was a good production though. I liked their use of projections.

B: Overall it was very well done. It’s just a hard play. There isn’t really much conflict to drive the story. I guess there’s the tension between Dr. Uncle who doesn’t think Colin should get out of bed vs. Mary who wants to take him out to the garden. Otherwise it’s just a show about grief and some ghosts. I still enjoyed it, and got misty eyed at the happy ending. It’s not my favorite musical, but 42nd Street Moon did very good production.

K: I feel a young person would like this…it’s just long. If you love the Secret Garden you will like this.

B: If you like the story of the Secret Garden, it’s fun to see it on stage. I feel like this would be a great show to see with your grandparents or the children in your life. It was sweet and entertaining classic childhood story.

The Verdict: Want to see a sweet and classic childhood story told onstage? Love the story of The Secret Garden? Like musicals with pretty songs and singing? Then you’ll probably want to see this show.

The Drama Talk: 42nd Street Moon is decidedly not edgy, but in a way that’s what this company has going for it. They do really lovely and faithful stagings of classic musicals. Their latest production, The Secret Garden, is about as good as this play gets. It was very well cast, well sung, and beautifully rendered on the small Gateway Theater stage. While it’s not a groundbreaking show, it’s a cozy classic that gives you a warm fuzzy ending. Sometimes that’s all you want at the holidays.

The Drinks: After watching a musical that’s set long long ago, it felt appropriate to go to a bar with a theatrical old school feel. Luckily just a few blocks away on Columbus there was the Comstock Saloon. It has that very old timey decor, classic cocktails and all the servers are in black bowties. It definitely adds to the night out feel.

The Secret Garden plays through December 24th at the Gateway Theatre. Tickets range are $15-$55 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Bright Star – “We expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.'”

The Curran’s first year of being open after a major renovation is coming to a close, and what a year it has been. The shows we saw at the Curran were some of our very favorites of the entire season, so we were so excited to see their last show of the year Bright Star, a musical written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Unfortunately, Brittany had a last minute work commitment come up, so luckily my Brittany replacement, Garrett, was available and more than willing to join me for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Garrett: Going into the show not knowing what it was about, maybe wasn’t the best idea because it took me a little bit to get into the story, which made it start off slow and at some points I was confused about what decade we were in. As far as the story, the emotion and music, the second act was better than the first act for me. I think the highlight was the style of music, I loved the old americana and bluegrassy type of stuff. The songs weren’t very memorable, but they were good enough to carry it.

Katie: For me I just didn’t care too much about what was happening until the end of the first act. I didn’t care much for the story in general, it kind of fell flat. The highlight was the lead actress Carmen Cusack. What a voice and what presence. I never wanted her to leave the stage…but she did, and too much in my opinion. She was outstanding, the show however, was just good.

G: Knowing that Steve Martin co-wrote this I expected more wit and a little more comedy and creativity as far as the story and lyrics. I think what they were trying to do was create a story about the American South, and a little slice of life but they didn’t quite pull that off.

K: Yes! I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I was underwhelmed. The elements of this musical from the side stories, to the going back and forth in time, to the large dancing ensemble who were awkwardly integrated into scenes, just didn’t quite harmonize. Definitely nothing groundbreaking to see here and frankly we expected more from you, Steve Martin.

G: It’s true, we expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.

The Verdict: Go to see Tony nominated actress Carmen Cusack sing the hell out Steve Martin’s songs. If you like the bluegrass style of music and melodrama then this is going to be a toe-taping, tear jerking good time.

The Drama Talk: We knew Steve Martin had a bluegrass musical side, which comes through beautifully in this show, but his thought provoking, witty and moving writing style doesn’t. Where this show shines is in its extremely likable lead character, Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack), as well as the set and costume design. The rotating shack that housed the bluegrass band was well done and whimsical, where the costumes really took you back to the 20’s and 40’s. Overall this musical is an enjoyable and entertaining experience.

The Drinks: Since this was about a time where a lot of things were forbidden going to an unmarked somewhat secret bar seemed appropriate. Good think less than a block away from the theater there is Benjamin Cooper that has that speakeasy feel and great cocktails.

Bright Star plays through December 17th at the Curran. Tickets range are $39-$145 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Totes Blessed – “we’re kinda ‘basic bitches'”

It’s good to to be able to laugh at ourselves, especially our #bestlife Instagram personas. Which is what drew us to Totes Blessed the new sketch show by Chardonnay Comedy now playing at PianoFight. The show promised  “a safe space to unpack what being basic even means” which sounded like a pretty hilarious way to spend a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

Totes Blessed

Brittany: That was so fun. It’s sketch, so not every bit was a winner, but generally I had a great time.

Katie: I was genuinely entertained. I would have loved a little more diversity in the ladies in the group. I felt like they were making fun of a very white privileged lifestyle. The message of the show was also a little unclear. The first quarter they make fun of being a “basic bitch” and then they say it’s okay to be “basic” because we should empower women to be themselves and not judge them for loving the things the love, like brunch. Then they made fun of being basic some more.

B: Part of me feels like they were just acknowledging the fact that yeah, we’re kinda “basic bitches” and we recognize that. We like “basic bitch” things like pumpkin spice everything, and juice cleanses, and group colonics, and posting inspirational quotes on social media. We know it’s ridiculous, but that’s still just us. I agree it was a mixed message, but I think that’s okay. It’s not a super feminist piece or a very deep show, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s not going to change the world or the environment…oh that poor polar bear.

K: When it got shot it was really funny though. Also that LA yoga-girl podcast sketch was amazing. I feel like that one also did a good job calling out their whiteness.

B: Yeah, that was hilarious. I also liked the Ivanka and Melania Trump Thanksgiving skit, and the Tilden Swinton on Sesame Street sketch was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

The Verdict: Great for a ladies night out. If you are a white women between the ages of 25-35 you will for sure enjoy this show. Generally if you’re in your 20s or 30s and living in SF you’ll probably think this is pretty funny.

The Drama Talk: The Chardonnay Comedy troupe is a filled with a bunch of very funny Bay Area 20/30 something women, and that is the experience that this show draws from. As Bay Area 30 something cis-women ourselves, we thought it was pretty hilarious, as did our dates (two white Bay Area 30 something cis-men). We don’t think our grandparents would find this show very funny, since they wouldn’t get the references, but that’s part of what makes this show so fun. It holds up a carnival mirror to our culture, and forces us to laugh at ourselves.

The Drinks: PianoFight is awesome because it also has a restaurant and bar, so we got dinner and drinks before the show there (they have a special “Basic Bitch” cocktail on the menu to get you in the mood). While we usually stay and debrief at the PianoFight bar, this time we decided to check out a newer bar on the same block called Biig for our post-show drinks. This is a bar with no menu, limited seating, and music at a volume level that encourages intimate meaningful conversation. It’s very adult, very posh and we loved it.

Chardonnay Comedy’s Totes Blessed runs Friday and Saturday nights through November 18th at PianoFight. Tickets are available through Eventbrite and range from $15-$40.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Disney’s Aladdin – “All flash and no substance.”

A Disney caravan rolled into town this week, with the opening of the Broadway tour of Aladdin at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. It’s a favorite childhood movie for both of your DT&D columnists, so we decided to check it out.

Photo Credit: Deen van Meer  Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Anthony Murphy (Genie). Disney's Aladdin North American Tour Original Cast. ©Disney.
Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Anthony Murphy (Genie). Disney’s Aladdin North American Tour Original Cast. ©Disney. Photo Credit: Deen van Meer 

Brittany: It was so shiny and flashy. I guess it’s Disney, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but it had such amazingly high production values. The costumes were gorgeous and there were hundreds of them and the sets were crazy. I mean, fireworks happened on stage multiple times, and they actually rode a flying carpet, that’s nuts.

Katie: Totally, but for me, that’s all this show had going for it. I’m a huge Aladdin fan, and I just don’t think it translated to the stage. It was just super cheesy.  I get that they had to make changes to make it work as a musical, but all the changes were lame. I had hoped they would add value in their re-imagining of the movie for the stage, but they just added a bunch of terrible filler songs. Super disappointing.

B: Agreed the filler songs weren’t great. I also was disappointed that they got rid of the animal sidekicks and added in a bunch of one-dimensional annoying friends for Aladdin and Jasmine instead. In the movie Aladdin and Jasmine don’t have any friends (who are people), which is part of what drives the story.  Given how good they are at spectacle, and how well Disney has done animals on stage for shows like the Lion King, it’s strange they didn’t make some super creative costumes that allowed the play to keep those characters. I wanted Abu and Rajah!

K: This show was just disappointing. The adaptation was lackluster and none of the actors blew me away. Jafar wasn’t scary, Aladdin was too self-confident to be endearing, and I thought all the new characters they added were dumb.

B: The songs “Never Had A Friend Like me” and “Prince Ali”  were damn impressive, and met my expectations in terms of generating wide-eyed excitement, but you’re right, all this show had going for it is spectacle. Big show-stopping numbers with impressive tech.

K: It felt like a money grab to me. All flash and no substance.

The Verdict: This show could be a fun way to introduce a kid to theater since it’s so technically impressive, and they probably won’t mind the lack of depth. But if you are an Aladdin fan we recommend staying in and just re-watching the movie.

The Drama Talk: Aladdin is a valuable Disney francise, and this show is just another way for producers to cash-in on the brand. If all you want is to see some gorgeous costumes, cinematically beautiful sets, and a few big song and dance numbers than you may like this. For us, it fell short of the movie. Jafar wasn’t nearly as scary, Aladdin wasn’t nearly as deep, and Jasmine didn’t feel as strong. It feels like this production is really made for kids who care more about spectacle than storyline.

The Drinks: We’ve been to the Orpheum enough times that we now have official SHN cups that we bring to the theater with us. These cups, which you can also purchase with your drink order, allow you to bring drinks into the theatre to enjoy during the show. This Aladdin is definitely a spectacle better appreciated with some bubbly.

Aladdin runs through January 7th at the Orpheum Theater. Tickets are available on their website for $45-$200. There are $40 in-person rush tickets available.  Goldstar also currently has tickets for $55-$75.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Ain’t Misbehavin’ – “trying to do things the old-school way”

Sometimes when things are feeling bleak, and it smells like the world is burning down around you, it’s nice to escape into something light, fun, and maybe a little mindless. While cat videos are always an option, you can feel more sophisticated (and support the local arts scene) by going out and seeing a musical. That’s what we did last weekend when went out for drama talk and drinks and the opening of Ain’t Misbehavin’ the latest production of 42nd Street Moon.

The Cast of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (L to R): Arís-Allen Roberson, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Erica Richardson, Ashley D. Gallo, and Branden ‘Noel’ Thomas. Photo by Ben Krantz Studios
The Cast of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (L to R): Arís-Allen Roberson, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Erica Richardson, Ashley D. Gallo, and Branden ‘Noel’ Thomas. Photo by Ben Krantz Studios

Brittany: What a fun classic American musical.

Katie: Those actors were incredible! They all had amazing voices and such stage presence. I just wish they used microphones. The band was great, but there were moments I couldn’t hear the singers, and that was distracting.

B: 42nd Street Moon is trying to do things the old-school way, so they aren’t using microphones on purpose, but that was probably my biggest complaint too. I like what the company is trying to do though, honest rivals of these classic shows. I think it was very successful in that.

K: I totally agree, the costumes, the staging, and the choreography all felt very authentic. I feel like this show would be more fun in a different space though. This is a much more traditional theater atmosphere, but this felt like more of a cabaret show. It was a little long to just sit and watch with no plot or story. I think more of a cabaret atmosphere would have suited the show better. I still enjoyed it though, especially some of the songs in the second act.

B: This show is hard for a modern audience, because you are just sitting and watching a series of song and dance numbers. Really well done song and dance numbers, but that’s it. I guess we’re just spoiled with shows like Speakeasy, where there’s a cabaret going on, but you can also walk around, have drinks, play casino games, and then come back to hear more song and dance.

K: Overall, I think it was a well done production. I liked the set, the lighting, and costumes. I felt like I was watching a show  in the 1930’s. It felt very lively, moody and cool.

The Verdict: If you love jazzy music from the 1920s and 30s, this is the perfect show for you.

The Drama Talk: They don’t really make shows like Ain’t Misbehavin’ any more. This musical revue was created as a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance. If you like jazzy, swing music, you’ll probably really enjoy this show. The second act had some of our favorite moments of the show, including a dope song and dance about a five foot joint “The Viper’s Drag” and a beautiful rendition of “Black and Blue”. Like many things that were written a while ago, there were some cringe-worthy moments of sexism, as well as some awkward-to-watch bits of pandering to racist stereotypes. However, overall, 42nd Street Moon creates an engaging, enjoyable and authentic revival of this classic show.

The Drinks: Saturday shows are at 6pm so we ended up getting dinner and drinks after the show a couple blocks away on Columbus Avenue at Doc Ricketts. If you want to see a show after the show, check out Doc’s Lab, which is the venue underneath Doc Ricketts.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through October 29th at the Gateway Theatre. Tickets range from $30-$75 and are available on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $22.50-$25.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Role Call – “Am I supposed to be impressed with how actorly you can be?”

We have never seen a show from the company FoolsFURY so we were excited to learn about their new show Role Call, which is comprised of two new one-woman shows by local theater artists. The first piece Sheryl, Hamlet and Me, written and performed by Michelle Haner “explores the costs of ambition in the digital era.” The second piece (dis)Place[d], written and performed by Debórah Eliezer, “tells her story as the child of a first-generation immigrant to America ‘caught between cultures.’” We have also never been NOH Space where the pieces were being performed. So we headed to Potrero Hill for for some new experiences and drama talk and drinks.

Debórah Eliezer, left, and Michelle Haner, right. Photo by Wendy Yalom
Debórah Eliezer, left, and Michelle Haner, right. Photo by Wendy Yalom

Brittany: I wish I could say something positive, because I really want to support female voices, local playwrights and small scale theater. Both of these shows were  just so out of touch with what most people would want to watch, I just don’t think I can recommend it.

Katie: Yeah, I completely agree…I don’t know what else to say right now. I didn’t connect with either piece… at times they almost felt like parodies of one-woman shows. Both scripts were all over the place, they never let me fully connect to the stories they were trying to tell. And a big personal pet peeve, both of the actors did characters that had accents which were inconsistent.

B: Yeah, there were tons of little messy things like that which took me out of both pieces, but I think the biggest challenges with both of these plays is they tried to do too much. The second play (dis)Place[d] had some good moments, and I liked the concept of telling this very personal story about her father’s life to explore her complicated Jewish-Arab identity. However, she tried to play too many characters, and wasn’t able to do them all well, which detracted from the story. Also that bizarre, poetic desert-goddess character really took me out of it.

K: Yeah, I could have definitely done without that, and the weird recorded voice with the echo effect with the over the top movement.  I did love when she (Debórah Eliezer) sang though, she has a beautiful voice. A simpler telling of the same story would have been so much better.

B: Then the first piece, Sheryl, Hamlet, and Me, I didn’t enjoy at all. Sometimes actors take themselves way too seriously, and this play is a perfect example of how out of touch theater can feel when that happens. I studied acting, so I get where the breathing and stylized movement come from, but when taken to this extreme it just feels self indulgent. Am I supposed to be impressed with how actorly you can be? She made a few good points about how is Facebook creepy, but it wasn’t that insightful. It almost felt like she realized she had to make a point that people could connect with, and so she decided to pander to tech hating in the Bay Area since that’s an easy target.

K: Yeah, I don’t really know what she was going for, but I didn’t connect to this piece at all. If you could come for just one of the shows (dis)Place[d] felt like it had potential, but Sheryl, Hamlet and Me I’d definitely skip.

The Verdict: Not a show we would recommend for non-theatergoers. Maybe not even a show we would recommend for frequent theatergoers, although it is always interesting to see new plays by local female playwrights.

The Drama Talk: While it’s clear both of the women who created and performed these shows are talented, we didn’t particularly enjoy either of these plays. They try to do too much, they indulge in overly stylized techniques to the detriment of their stories, and they just weren’t that engaging. With some major edits (dis)Place[d] could be a really lovely piece. While Sheryl, Hamlet and Me tried some interesting techniques with video, the story just wasn’t there. We didn’t care about any of the characters (Sheryl Sandberg, Hamlet or the playwright as herself), and so we didn’t really care about the play.

The Drinks: We checked out Darger Bar, which was once Dear Mom. We liked the reboot. Still a lot of seating and relaxed atmosphere but a better drink and food menu.

Role call plays until October 22nd at NOH Space. Tickets are available on their website for $30. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $15.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Mineola Twins – “Ridiculously relevant”

Fall theater season is upon us, which means lots of great new shows to see around the Bay Area. Cutting Ball Theater’s first show of their 17/18 season just opened at the Exit Theater on Taylor. The Mineola Twins, by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel, is a “razor sharp satire about domestic upheaval in times of political progress and in the rise of conservatism”. It sounded like a pretty timely topic, so we headed over the the TL for some drama talk and drinks.

Elissa Beth Stebbins as Myra (right), Steve Thomas (left) and Sango Tajima (center) Photo by Liz Olson
Elissa Beth Stebbins as Myra (right), Steve Thomas (left) and Sango Tajima (center) Photo by Liz Olson

Katie: That was so interesting! What a cool story! I wish I went in knowing a little bit more about the script. Usually I like to be surprised, but this was such a smart show, I think may have gotten more out of the first few scenes if I had known more about the story.

Brittany: I really liked it. The woman who played the twins (Elissa Beth Stebbins) was amazing. She played each sister so well I honestly couldn’t tell at first if there were two different but nearly identical looking actors, or just one amazing actor playing both roles. Turns out it was just one incredibly talented person, but her physicality was so good each character was totally distinct.

K: Yes, she was remarkable. It was such an interesting show too. I was constantly curious about where the story was going to go next.  It is ridiculously relevant to what the country is going through now and it’s a play that was written in the 90s. I think it did such a great job at creatively exploring the left versus right, conservative versus liberal.

B:  Yes it’s super timely. It also makes you reflect on your own beliefs, and that feeling of superiority that comes with feeling you have the moral high-ground. It’s great to see a play that reveals so much about the division in our society without hitting the audience over the head with politics too. It was just a compelling story about twins, who while they couldn’t be more different, still are the same.

The Verdict: Go see it! Great actors and a super relevant script make it an enjoyable thought-provoking evening.

The Drama Talk: Even though this play was written in the 90s it couldn’t feel more contemporary and in-tune with the political turmoil happening today. Cutting Ball Theater always does really relevant work, but their artistic director did a great job picking this play for this season. Beyond a great script the lead actor Elissa Beth Stebbins was remarkable. It’s worth going just to see her performance. While there were some nitpicky things that we didn’t love, the show as a whole was so engaging nothing could really detract.

The Drinks: A block from the Exit on Theater, is a chill cocktail bar in the Tilden Hotel called The Douglas Room. It has great cocktails and delicious well priced snacks. We also love that they had plenty of seating the two times we have gone. It was a great place to debrief about this thought provoking show.

The Mineola Twins plays through October 29th the Exit on Taylor. Tickets range are $35 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $15-$20.

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