The Ubuntu Theater Project is the most politically engaged theater company in the Bay Area, but if you like your theater to come with answers then Ubuntu will thwart you at every turn. Their latest, the world premiere of Lisa Ramirez’s Down Here Below is a rousing reworking of Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths from which it takes both spiritual and aesthetic inspiration. Painting a despairing picture of the clearing of one Oakland homeless encampment (a close approximation of Snow Park at Lakeside and Harrison), Ramirez’s play—with a cast of twenty and running just 65-minutes—is both epic and swift.
Rather than telling us what to do, or how to feel, or mapping out some Quixotic plan for the future, Ramirez gives us people and lots of them. You walk into Ubuntu’s new theater (a nice slice of unused warehouse space in FLAX art and design) and suddenly you’re in a crowd, as if every homeless person in Oakland just kind of emerged out of nowhere.Read More