We have seen six shows already this year. Five of them were really good and one was a stinker.
The worst show was from the largest and most acclaimed theater in the area. Almost any objective ranking would list American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) as the premier theatre company in the Bay Area. It has a Tony award, has its own theatre building, an endowment, and operates a highly regarded conservatory program that offers a master of fine arts degree. Danny Glover, Annette Bening, Denzel Washington, Benjamin Bratt, and Anika Noni Rose are among the program's well-known graduates. Their productions have big budgets, beautiful sets and costumes, and highly regarded actors. But their choice of plays and ability to pull it off is never consistent. They hit an all time low this year with a revival of “Rich and Famous” by John Guare. The show is an unfunny, dated 70's comedy about an unsuccessful playwright. It is full of sexist, homophobic and racist stereotypes. It is the first show we walked out in the middle of with a dozen others audience members. Didn’t anyone during rehearsals or previews realize that they were staging a comedy that not only wasn’t funny but was extremely offensive?
The Wonderful Shows: We saw an outstanding production of “Macbeth”. Performed by Shotgun Players and featuring one of our favorite Bay Area actors, Craig Marker. The production featured young, sexy actors in contemporary dress. Since we have been together, Eddie said that he never needed to see another production of the Scottish Play. He made an exception with this one and said it was the best.
We saw two very good revivals. The first was the musical, “Zanna, Don't” at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. It is a charming story of a high school matchmaker that is determined as ever to make sure everyone in town, guy and guy, gal and gal, guy and gal, is happily paired up in this musical fairy tale.
The other show was the classic screwball comedy, “Twentieth Century” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. It is based on a play by Charles Bruce Milholland and was recently adapted by Ken Ludwig. It was done by our local company, TheatreWorks. The plot is about an on-the-outs impresario needing a hit show with a mercurial silver screen starlet.
The other two shows were incredible. The are written by two new west coast playwrights. The first was “Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party” by Aaron Loeb. It was presented at San Francisco Playhouse. It is done in 3 acts that look at similar events from different points of view. At the start of the show the audience votes on the order based the titles of the acts: Power, Liberty, and A House Divided. The plot revolve around a son coming out in a conservative family and a "Star is Born" mentorship between an aging "good ol' boy" Republican and politically raising, conservative black woman who take each other on in opposing sides of a court battle. A grade school teacher is on trail for teaching that Lincoln was gay.
The other is “T.I.C. Trenchcoat in Common” by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb at Encore Theatre Company. The story revolves around a moody and angry teenage girl. She starts to publish a blog with video about her new T.I.C. (Tenant-in-Common) apartment building and living with her gay dad. Creepy and funny murder mystery develops.