WEEKLY THEATER GUIDE

Right now, The Free Audience, is still in beta-phase. As soon as we enter regular production, this page will be a weekly theater guide, offering capsule reviews of all notable productions in the Bay Area, especially short one. Some will have full reviews on the site that you can click to. For right now, it will take a short while to get up to full strength.

Theater guide for shows currently in production.

Week of Monday, May 14, 2018


 Great Theater turned into Bad   March 16, 2018    Vietgone  possesses a kind of conceptual genius that makes you feel that Qui Nguyen has found a more fluid and expressive form of American playwriting. And then he blows all that brilliance with some truly dreadful writing — weak-minded parodies, sitcom tripe, and post-modern juvenilia.   Full Review . Info and tickets.

Great Theater turned into Bad

March 16, 2018

Vietgone possesses a kind of conceptual genius that makes you feel that Qui Nguyen has found a more fluid and expressive form of American playwriting. And then he blows all that brilliance with some truly dreadful writing — weak-minded parodies, sitcom tripe, and post-modern juvenilia.

Full Review. Info and tickets.

 The Difficulty of Real Lives   March 2, 2018   These days, when complicity has become such a potent, possibly criminal question (in our government, businesses, and private lives), TheatreFirst’s two-program collection of seven one-act monologues,  Between Us , presents a group of men and women who got in the way. The problem is that none of the plays on display here.   Full review . Info and tickets.

The Difficulty of Real Lives

March 2, 2018

These days, when complicity has become such a potent, possibly criminal question (in our government, businesses, and private lives), TheatreFirst’s two-program collection of seven one-act monologues, Between Us, presents a group of men and women who got in the way. The problem is that none of the plays on display here.

Full review. Info and tickets.

  Red Speedo  is a Sick Triumph   May 9, 2019   The fascinating American playwright Lucas Hnath’s  Red Speedo  captures a strange quality about ethical thinking -- it helps to not have any. Ethics, that is. It’s an awful proposition, and one we resist throughout the play’s lurid, 80-minute sprint to hell, even as scene after scene unfolds to demonstrate otherwise. In that,  Red Speedo  is of the moment for our awful times.   Full Review . Info and tickets.

Red Speedo is a Sick Triumph

May 9, 2019

The fascinating American playwright Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo captures a strange quality about ethical thinking -- it helps to not have any. Ethics, that is. It’s an awful proposition, and one we resist throughout the play’s lurid, 80-minute sprint to hell, even as scene after scene unfolds to demonstrate otherwise. In that, Red Speedo is of the moment for our awful times.

Full Review. Info and tickets.

 The Skeleton of a Great Drama   May 9, 2018   There are scenes in Dominique Morisseau’s  Skeleton Crew  that belong in a terrific play about Detroit auto workers. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of verve and focus to Morisseau’s vision of American industry. That she ends her play both sentimentally and ironically is an indictment of a play that should have been a direct indictment of a grotesque economic and human failure in Detroit.   Full Review . Info and tickets.

The Skeleton of a Great Drama

May 9, 2018

There are scenes in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew that belong in a terrific play about Detroit auto workers. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of verve and focus to Morisseau’s vision of American industry. That she ends her play both sentimentally and ironically is an indictment of a play that should have been a direct indictment of a grotesque economic and human failure in Detroit.

Full Review. Info and tickets.


 Pinter's lost  Birthday Party    May 9, 2018   Pinter was the revolution that mid-century audiences wanted — and for almost 60 years he, along with Samuel Beckett, has stood for an ongoing theatrical revolt against conventional meaning. ACT's by-the-numbers production of his first hit,  The Birthday Party , shows how limited that revolution was. There are moments, but nothing can compensate for Pinter's lack of dramatic and philosophical force. The void is empty.   Full review .  Info and tickets .

Pinter's lost Birthday Party

May 9, 2018

Pinter was the revolution that mid-century audiences wanted — and for almost 60 years he, along with Samuel Beckett, has stood for an ongoing theatrical revolt against conventional meaning. ACT's by-the-numbers production of his first hit, The Birthday Party, shows how limited that revolution was. There are moments, but nothing can compensate for Pinter's lack of dramatic and philosophical force. The void is empty.

Full review. Info and tickets.

  Bondage  is a Shocker   May 9, 2018   Part of the pleasure of  Star Finch’s gothic shocker  Bondage  is the way Finch catches the destabilizing force of simply being neither black nor white. As William Carlos Williams memorably summed it up, "the pure products of America go crazy." That's something that you need to see and so all those in the free audience need to go.   Full Review . Info and tickets.

Bondage is a Shocker

May 9, 2018

Part of the pleasure of  Star Finch’s gothic shocker Bondage is the way Finch catches the destabilizing force of simply being neither black nor white. As William Carlos Williams memorably summed it up, "the pure products of America go crazy." That's something that you need to see and so all those in the free audience need to go.

Full Review. Info and tickets.

 2 Sly Epics at CounterPulse  May 9, 2018  In many ways Davia Spain's Mother The Verb and Randy Reyes’  Lxs Desaparecidxs  are sly and casual inversions of what we’ve come to understand as the epic. There are no superheroes or villains, no cities under threat of alien invasion, no CGI of worlds at war and vast armies. Instead, there’s a simple understanding that to experience the epic, we have to identify with its opposite -- the lost traveller (Odysseus), the scared child (Huckleberry Finn), the harried bureaucrat (Joseph K.), anyone who feels the vastness of our everyday world and is at its mercy.   Full Review . Info and tickets

2 Sly Epics at CounterPulse

May 9, 2018

In many ways Davia Spain's Mother The Verb and Randy Reyes’ Lxs Desaparecidxs are sly and casual inversions of what we’ve come to understand as the epic. There are no superheroes or villains, no cities under threat of alien invasion, no CGI of worlds at war and vast armies. Instead, there’s a simple understanding that to experience the epic, we have to identify with its opposite -- the lost traveller (Odysseus), the scared child (Huckleberry Finn), the harried bureaucrat (Joseph K.), anyone who feels the vastness of our everyday world and is at its mercy.

Full Review. Info and tickets

 

 
 

ArchiveD CAPSULE REVIEWS

 Keith Hennessy's  Sink  has Christmas Spirit  May 9, 2018  One of the main reasons  A Christmas Carol  and  It’s a Wonderful Life  are such great works of art is that their heroes are shattered, and they must put themselves back together in the coldest time of the year. As the days fall shorter in 2017, these classics are a sharp reminder that winter is brutal when your mind is ripped to pieces. And so we should be thankful for Keith Hennessy’s dance-theater-circus shocker,  Sink . It's full of Christmas spirit — not just a sense of redemption and hope for the future, but also a rage at what the world and we have become.   Full Review . Info and tickets.

Keith Hennessy's Sink has Christmas Spirit

May 9, 2018

One of the main reasons A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life are such great works of art is that their heroes are shattered, and they must put themselves back together in the coldest time of the year. As the days fall shorter in 2017, these classics are a sharp reminder that winter is brutal when your mind is ripped to pieces. And so we should be thankful for Keith Hennessy’s dance-theater-circus shocker, Sink. It's full of Christmas spirit — not just a sense of redemption and hope for the future, but also a rage at what the world and we have become.

Full Review. Info and tickets.

  The Black Rider  is 100% pure American  May 9, 2018  William Burroughs saw the sinister logic of all fables and myths of reckoning -- as children of the fall, Adam and Eve’s as well as Lucifer’s, we’re always looking for everything to go very, very wrong. So it’s appropriate that disaster is the governing spirit for Burroughs, Tom Waits, and Robert Wilson in their neo-Brechtian musical,  The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets , which gets an acid-soaked reworking under Mark Jackson’s inspired direction for the Shotgun Players.   Full Review . Tickets and Info.

The Black Rider is 100% pure American

May 9, 2018

William Burroughs saw the sinister logic of all fables and myths of reckoning -- as children of the fall, Adam and Eve’s as well as Lucifer’s, we’re always looking for everything to go very, very wrong. So it’s appropriate that disaster is the governing spirit for Burroughs, Tom Waits, and Robert Wilson in their neo-Brechtian musical, The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, which gets an acid-soaked reworking under Mark Jackson’s inspired direction for the Shotgun Players.

Full Review. Tickets and Info.

  The Royale  is bad Sentiment  May 9, 2018  In our racially damaged culture, it doesn't feel right to criticize Marco Ramirez’s   The Royale  , especially in light of the Aurora Theatre’s well-acted, designed, and directed Bay Area premiere. He clearly sees a hero in the first African-American heavy weight champion,  Jack Johnson, but the desire to honor is a dangerous and conservative aesthetic. It panders and plays to the romantic and sentimental in all of us. Ramirez is so interested in Johnson's perfection that he defangs a man of great complexity and unbelievable charisma. Not the right idea.   Full Review . Tickets and info.

The Royale is bad Sentiment

May 9, 2018

In our racially damaged culture, it doesn't feel right to criticize Marco Ramirez’s The Royale, especially in light of the Aurora Theatre’s well-acted, designed, and directed Bay Area premiere. He clearly sees a hero in the first African-American heavy weight champion,  Jack Johnson, but the desire to honor is a dangerous and conservative aesthetic. It panders and plays to the romantic and sentimental in all of us. Ramirez is so interested in Johnson's perfection that he defangs a man of great complexity and unbelievable charisma. Not the right idea.

Full Review. Tickets and info.

  Circus Veritas  is stylish Fun  May 9, 2018  Under Jaron Hollander's inventive direction, the Kinetic Art Theater's productions are more about a state of mind than mind-boggling stunts. There are many feats, some of them verging on the spectacular, but they occur in the service of conveying the aspirations and failures of people. This is a circus with such gentle intentions that it easily rises to the level of art   Full Review . Tickets and Info.

Circus Veritas is stylish Fun

May 9, 2018

Under Jaron Hollander's inventive direction, the Kinetic Art Theater's productions are more about a state of mind than mind-boggling stunts. There are many feats, some of them verging on the spectacular, but they occur in the service of conveying the aspirations and failures of people. This is a circus with such gentle intentions that it easily rises to the level of art

Full Review. Tickets and Info.

  Farm  is not quite Orwell's  Animal Farm   May 9, 2018  The energy is astounding in TheaterFirst's adaption of George Orwell's  Animal Farm ,  The Farm . But scene after scene of frenzied activity diminishes its impact. You start to feel as if you can anticipate not so much the story, but the method -- pounding drums, gospel-tinged oohs, and group stomping. It’s not a particularly rich artistic palette and seems more focused on gaining audience approval than in investigating a political condition.   Full Review . Tickets and Info.

Farm is not quite Orwell's Animal Farm

May 9, 2018

The energy is astounding in TheaterFirst's adaption of George Orwell's Animal Farm, The Farm. But scene after scene of frenzied activity diminishes its impact. You start to feel as if you can anticipate not so much the story, but the method -- pounding drums, gospel-tinged oohs, and group stomping. It’s not a particularly rich artistic palette and seems more focused on gaining audience approval than in investigating a political condition.

Full Review. Tickets and Info.