24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District

July 28, 2010

I haven’t been going to the theatre this summer as much I usually do. A couple of Saturday nights ago I was even wondering when I would be next going to see another play. I was heading back to my apartment after a late yoga class and walking past Union Square, heading west on Geary, and I heard music. It was about 10 PM. I was curious, and  walked up the stairs into the Square itself to see what was going on.

I discovered a large crowd of people watching an outdoor movie. I was surprised and delighted! The movie was “Dirty Dancing,” and it was being shown on a big screen like the ones they used to have at drive-in movies. But instead of cars lined up in rows there were people all over the Square sitting on blankets and folding chairs and digging the show. I walked around the edges of the audience and found a place to join them. 

I’d never seen “Dirty Dancing” before but I quickly figured out what was going on. I cheered and applauded along with everyone else as the story neared it’s conclusion. The music had stopped and there was a lot of drama and talking, and then what was clearly the big moment arrived: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey began dancing together to the hit song “The Time of My Life.” It was awesome, but I was not prepared for what happened next. People in the audience started standing up and dancing too! There was a big empty space on the ground in front of the movie screen, and suddenly it was filled up with dancers. And I mean lots of dancers. There I was, in the heart of the Theatre District on a Saturday night, and it was alive with music and dance. It was so cool that even now, two weeks later, I find it hard to believe it actually happened. 

The dancing continued all the way through the last credits. When it ended I wandered through the crowd, enjoying the glow of so many smiling faces. Eventually I made it to my apartment, which is two blocks from there, and checked my email. There was something from The Move-About Theatre Company informing me that they had just started a 24-hour project: they would create three short plays from scratch and have them ready to perform the next evening – in Union Square!

So I went to see them, and they did what they said they were going to do. The plays were all funny and mysterious genre pieces. Considering the self imposed time (and other) limitations I thought they were quite good – cleverly scripted, directed and costumed. My favorite was the second one, which reminded me of some the more existential “Twilight Zone” episodes. I don’t know who wrote what, but they all did a great job of putting on a show.

After seeing two wonderful events in 24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District I felt like Ronald Coleman in “Lost Horizon;”  I had once again been reminded that there are always amazing, and often unexpected, experiences out there waiting to be discovered.

pax,

Vox

Relevant links:

http://moveabouttheatre.com/

Here is a video that someone posted of the Saturday night movie screening. The camera is facing west – that’s the St. Francis Hotel behind the movie screen. When the camera pans to the right it catches a bit of my dangling backpack strap at 1:38 (I was standing to the right of the empty chair.) You can’t see anyone dancing, but you can hear the crowd cheering:

http://yfrog.com/hqgbgz

I’d also like to mention that the late, great actor Jerry Orbach is in this video, too (in “Dirty Dancing” of course.) He was one of the stars of the first New York production of “The Fantasticks-” that’s him singing “Try to Remember” on the original cast album, a recording I’ve been listening to and loving since I was around ten years old. And just a block away from Union Square, at the SF Playhouse, is a production of  “The Fantasticks” that is being staged in honor of it’s 50th anniversary!

The film screening was co-presented by the The Jewish Film Festival and Film Night in the Park:

http://www.sfjff.org/

http://www.filmnight.org/index.html   

Shalom!

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED. April 17th

May 3, 2010

(This blog post is a review of a rock concert I went to last month; it was originally written for the RE/Search Publications newsletter that is edited by my friend V. Vale. I used to go see a lot of rock bands, especially punk bands, before I fell in love with theatre. The Sex Pistols were a very theatrical band – in the documentary film “The Filth and the Fury” Johnny Rotten explains how he got his early punk stage persona from watching Lawrence Olivier in “Richard III.”)

I saw Public Image Limited (Pil) play in San Francisco on Saturday, April 17th, at the Regency Center on Van Ness. I almost didn’t go; advance tickets were fifty bucks and there were an additional 12 or 13 dollars in service charges. But at the last minute I decided to buy a ticket at the door. The show was billed as “An Evening With Public Image Limited,” which meant that there was no opening act, PiL started on time and they played for a full two hours. It ended up being a fantastic experience that exceeded any expectations I had for it.

John Lydon, singer and founder of Pil, looked and sounded great. There are all sorts of clips of this reunion tour on Youtube, including the SF show, but there is nothing like being there in person. Public Image was LOUD, clean and tight. This is Pil’s first tour in 17 years. They played extended, and often danceable, versions of songs from all phases of their career. As I watched Lydon I thought about how he used to look when he was younger, with his spiky hair and sneer; He was sarcastic, insulting to audiences and always seemed angry about what was going on. His hair is now even spikier. But he has a friendly, if impish, grin and seemed happy to be on stage singing again, working with talented musicians and in a town that loves him. 

Lydon, of course, has a long history with San Francisco. On January 14, 1978, as Johnny Rotten, he played at Winterland at what ended up being the final Sex Pistols gig. (Winterland is gone now but was located just 8 blocks west of the Regency Center.) At the end of that night he famously asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” No one felt that way at the Regency Center – Lydon actually thanked the crowd for being so respectful! There were moments when he even encouraged them to sing along.

   Lydon has returned to the City many times since then, most notably in 1984, when Pil played at a book release party for “RE/SEARCH 8/9: J.G. BALLARD.” It was in one of dock warehouses at Fort Mason. There were live S&M scenarios for people to check out as soon as they walked in. Further inside there were two wrecked automobiles that V. Vale had procured from a junkyard and mounted on top of each other like copulating bugs. It was a tribute to Ballard’s novel “Crash,” and was complete with a nurse and car crash victims covered in blood. Later a ram-car constructed by Survival Research Labs was brought in to assault the vehicles. The whole time there were multi-media projections of horrific images of forensic pathology on the walls. And then, after all that, Public Image came out and played their set.

Malcolm Mclaren’s recent death revived the discussion of the early days of punk, and of who really deserved credit for the Sex Pistols sound and image. But at the Regency Center on April 17th, all that mattered was that Lydon has survived and continued to grow as a person and an artist, and has remaining true to his punk roots and aesthetics. And for those who were there to experience it, this was yet another historic concert San Francisco. 

 For more info about this and other Pil shows, including live videos, check out the band’s website:

http://www.pilofficial.com/info.html

“Riot” at the Zeum (ACT Conservatory)

April 9, 2010

On Easter Sunday I went back to the Zeum to see the ACT Conservatory class of 2010, along with members of the ACT Young Conservatory (their high school training program), perform the world premier of “Riot,” by Ursula Rani Sarma. My previous blog post was also about an ACT play at the Zeum, and I was happy to return to see another.  I knew nothing about “Riot” before the matinee performance I attended, but I learned about it quickly as I walked inside the Zeum.  As with most other shows there, the theater itself was a part of the show. Before the performance began the cast were already on stage, in character, creating the scene. The setting was a “psychiatric institution for young adults,” and it was as if the audience was locked up inside with them. 

My first reaction to “Riot” was that it reminded me of the stage version of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” That was perhaps inevitable – they had similar settings, and both felt claustrophobic. In the second act, though, things took off in a different direction. The ending was quite a surprise. I didn’t think of at the time, but afterward I realized that it had a similar feeling to George Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House.” I’ve only seen that play once, a few years back at Berkeley Rep. It was a long play, and I don’t remember much about it, but the ending was unforgettable. It has been described as being “apocalyptic,” and that was be an appropriate description of the final moments of “Riot.”

The cast was great. Some of them had been in England last year and had worked with the playwright. The patients at the institution were played by high school students, and the people running the place were played by the ACT graduate students.The first act set up who the characters were, and the second act had more emphasis on telling the story. At times, as I was watching, I was trying to remember who was in there for what reason and what their particular psychological problem was. But as the play neared its conclusion that didn’t seem to matter.

In the days since I have seen “Riot” I have been thinking about it a lot. I am still trying to understand my feelings about what happened on stage that afternoon, but that’s okay. It was a powerful and worthwhile experience, and one that I will not soon forget. 

Pax, Vox

http://www.act-sf.org/0910/riot/index.html

SPRING EQUINOX – REBIRTH OF THE BLOG

March 27, 2010

Okay, now is a good time to get this blog up and running again. Last weekend was the Spring Equinox, when the days began getting longer than the nights. It’s a celebration of renewal, fertility and the plants and flowers coming back to life. With that in mind, here is my first blog post after a long, dark winter.

 On Friday night, March 19th, I saw the ACT Conservatory Class of 2010 do a new (to me) play called “Oh Lovely Glowworm; or Great Scenes of Beauty,“ written by Glen Berger. As usual for an ACT play at the Zeum Theater the set was quite spectacular. It was like the Borg home world (from “Star Trek: Next Generation”) or one of the “Matrix” movies. But this was a fantasy, not science fiction, that took place in Europe around the time of World War I. The characters included a talking stuffed goat, a mermaid, and Irish soldiers. It was a good play for the Equinox – the characters kept dying and coming back to life, there were overlapping stories that would end and then start over again later, and there was a general theme involving a major cultural shift happening.

 Of course most of that was not really apparent to me till a couple of days later, after I’d had time to think about it. While I was watching “Glowworm” I was just enjoying the story and the talented cast. It was three hours long but went by quickly.

(I’d also like to mention that last fall ACT Conservatory opened up a new studio theater at 77 Geary, on the sixth floor of an office building. The first show I saw there was Sam Shepard’s “Fool For Love,” and it instantly became my favorite new performance space in town. It’s intimate! That play is so tightly written and visceral, and the cast of four just ripped into it and made it happen. When it was over I felt exhilarated.)

On Saturday, March 20, the actual day of the Equinox, I went to SF State to see a version of “Romeo and Juliet,” which was just called “Juliet,” and had a cast of six women and one man – all of them playing Juliet. It was marvelous much, a character study exploring different aspects of her personality, thoughts and feelings. That was quite interesting. I have seen recent productions of “Romeo and Juliet” where Juliet herself seemed to have gotten lost somewhere in the rehearsal and directing process. And hey, it’s her story, right? It was nice to see her as the center of attention, presented as being complex and surprising. 

They also brought in other characters to tell the basic plot, using some of Shakespeare’s best dialogue and scenes and combining them with dance, improvisation, and newly written material. So it was both a performance of the play and something else at the same time. There was a great mix of movement with sound and/or music. It all worked really well.

I have featured two school performances in this blog. I don’t really make a distinction between professional, school and other types of productions – all that matters to me is if I enjoyed the show. Both ACT Conservatory and SF State School of Creative Arts have staged many excellent productions in the years that I have been an active Bay Area Theatre-goer. I would have written about State’s recent, and awesome, “Twelfth Night” if my blog hadn’t been in the Underworld with Persephone. But now it’s Spring; my blog has returned, and I am once again writing about the pleasures of theatre. Excelsior!

Pax,

Vox

“The Comedy of Errors,” SF Shakes

September 17, 2009

I am happy to report that this year SF Shakes has a new sound system. Each person on stage now has their own microphone, which they wear throughout the show. I believe this is the first year they have done that. The sound was improved last year, but at this show it was even better. Shakespeare’s beautiful words can now be heard as they were meant to be heard, with depth, clarity and nuance.

And spoken by a great cast. These people know how to talk the talk. The show was “The Comedy of Errors,” and it was Burning Man Shakespeare, as if the town of Ephesus was actually Black Rock City and everyone was wearing wildly colored wigs and make-up. It actually helped make the play more believable, if that’s possible. You see, the plot is about (among other things) these two sets of twins who were each separated at a young age. Then they all end up in Ephesus, but neither twin knows his identical long, lost brother is town, so there is all this mistaken identify stuff and other confusion. And if it was taking place at Burning Man, and everyone was in some kind of altered state, and running around in the hot sun all day, then that might explain why none of the characters could figure out what is going on.

But we don’t really need this to be plausible, do we? It’s Shakespeare, and we got it performed in a most entertaining way, and when that happens the story becomes real. SF Shakes does it again!  As I said last year, they’re a  local treasure. After the show on the bus home I talked to a couple of tourists from Wales who had made the effort to see the play. Now that’s a vacation. It’s things like SF Shakes that make this City great. I love seeing the Main Post Parade Ground Lawn of the Presidio covered with blankets, and people sitting on them eating, drinking and digging the scene. Lots of them are families, and they bring their kids, and the kids sit there quietly for the whole show. Wow! That speaks volumes about what was happening. SF Shakes is showing the next generation of theatre-goers how wonderful a live play can be, and that is quite an accomplishment. (They also have a touring company which does abridged version of plays at schools and other places – last year I got to see a 50 minute version of “Romeo and Juliet” in the West Portal Library.  It was outstanding.)

I have been doing this blog for almost a year now. In that time the planet has taken a trip around the sun, the seasons have gone through their cycle, SF Shakes has done their annual play and I have gotten to write about it again. I am looking forward to experiencing all these things again in the future. And I have something else to say about the future: The Presidio is where the United Federation of Planets is going to build  Starfleet Academy. Hey,  I like “Star Trek” and Shakespeare! Two years ago I went to London and saw Patrick Stewart, who played the captain of the Starship Enterprise, playing Prospero in The RSC production of “The Tempest.” Anyway, as I looked around at the Presidio between acts of “The Comedy of Errors” I imagined what it would look like centuries from now. And I hoped that when Starfleet Academy is there, that SF Shakes will still be there too. Live long and prosper!

http://sfshakes.org/park/index.html

Outside the Novello Theater, London, 2007

Outside the Novello Theater, London, 2007

Gorky, Cherry, David, Julie and Alice

June 9, 2009

I haven’t posted to this blog recently because I’ve been pretty busy. But I have still managed to see at least one play a week during that time. I’m going to write some thoughts about a few of them to try and get caught up, and then I hope to begin posting again regularly. The best play I have seen so far this year was ACT’s production of Maxim Gorky’s “Philistines” at the ZEUM. The play was written in Russia right before the revolution, and as I watched it I could feel the tension and passion of that time and place. The whole story took place in one family’s living room, with a cast featuring veteran San Francisco actors and third year grad students from the ACT Conservatory. I was so excited that I went looking for a copy of the play to read it. The only one I could find was a 1906 translation that was called “The Smug Citizen,” and it was only available on Google Books. So I read the whole thing online, which was another new experience for me. 

On March 4th I went to The Marsh on Valencia. Cherry Zonkowski did a solo performance called “Reading My Dad’s Porn and French Kissing the Dog” for the “Marsh Rising” series. Her title was kind of misleading, because that was only what a small portion of the show was about. A more accurate title might have been something like “The Secret Life of a Freshman Comp Professor.” Cherry wrote and starred in the show. She is a talented storyteller and a natural actress – she successfully played many different characters while simultaneously narrating what was going on. I think this was her first time on stage and it was an impressive debut.

More recently I saw two plays that had similar structures: They both took place in one room in one night, featured drinking, deception, and (off-stage) sex, and had casts of three people. The first one was “Skylight,” written by David Hare, and it was at the Shotgun Player’s Ashby Stage. The acting in this was awesome. It took place in contemporary London, and started off slowly, with lots of details about what it’s like to be young and poor in a small apartment on a cold winter night. I liked the way the play was written, and how it gradually revealed the history between the characters. By the end of it I had gotten to know them and understood why they behaved the way they did. It had an ending that was unexpected but an appropriate conclusion to the story.

The next week I saw Aurora Theatre’s staging of August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie.” This was the seasonal opposite of “Skylight,” taking place on a hot Summer Solstice somewhere in the country in Sweden in the 1800s. “Miss Julie” was a horror story, featuring miserable, manipulative, unlikable characters who seemed to have no redeeming qualities. But for some reason I enjoyed it – I’m not sure why. It was definitely a beautiful production, with a great cast, set and costumes. Perhaps I liked it because after Miss Julie slit her throat open onstage I was happy to return to the world I live in, and grateful that I didn’t have to stay in Strindberg’s. (Apparently he wrote this play while on an absinthe binge.)

And finally on the last Sunday in May I had the pleasure of seeing The Move-About Theatre Company presenting “Alice in Wonderland.” I really learned a lot about what makes theatre work by watching this. I realized that theatre is all about imagination. Because when watching a play it’s obvious we’re just watching people playing parts, and we’re in the same place they are. But if all the various elements of the production fall into place, we can imagine we’re somewhere else and even though we know it isn’t real on a certain level it seems like it is. This is why I like going to see plays more than movies these days, a reversal of a lifetime habit. Because even with the best of today’s digital visual and sound technology, a movie doesn’t stimulate the imagination like a live play does.

Which brings us back to “Alice.” It was staged in Golden Gate Park. The company were all high school students, and they found these various existing locations in the Park that worked perfectly as sets for scenes in Wonderland. We, the audience, followed Alice around as she fell down the rabbit hole and yes, it seemed like we were actually there. The cast was quite good, all of them somehow managing to change costumes and show up at the next scene in character. And the whole thing also worked (probably unintentionally) as a tribute to San Francisco’s psychedelic past. Because the Jefferson Airplane used to live right across the street from the Park, at 2400 Fulton. And there they were – the White Rabbit and Hookah smoking caterpillar!

The play started at 6:30 in the evening and when it was over I looked around at everyone in the audience. They were all bundled up in layers of coats, sweaters and scarves. And it was windy, and damp, and just freezing out. And we had all just had a great time watching a play. And I was so happy, because that could only mean one thing: It’s summer in San Francisco!

Pax,

Vox

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Impact Theatre

February 16, 2009

The 2009 Bay Area Shakespeare season has begun. Not in a park, or in a theater, but in the basement of a college pizza parlor. On the first floor there was a basketball game on TV, a pool table, a picture of Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in “The Hustler” on the wall, and people pouring pitchers of beer. Walk down the narrow stairs and there it was: Impact Theatre’s awesome new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Director Melissa Hillman set this “Dream” in a 1980’s nightclub underworld, with all the appropriate music, clothes and behavior. When the Goth Faeries were on stage it was like watching an early MTV video, back when a whole story was told in one short song with a lot of quick edits and dazzling, cinematic movement. Titania’s dialogue was trimmed, but the scenes between her and Bottom, who was played by another woman, were hilarious and hot. The two excellent actresses got right to the essence of what was happening.

In keeping with the eighties theme, the scenes with the Athenian royalty and the rude mechanicals were done in the style of an SCTV sketch. A good choice – I always thought that show was funnier than “Saturday Night Live.” The cast of SCTV were good actors, and mixed in serious literary and artistic references with their pop-culture satire and slapstick humor.

Impact’s “Midsummer” really sparkled when the new wave Oberon and punk Puck began to mess around with the two pairs of young lovers. The lovers actually had distinct personalities; as written, they’re almost interchangeable. This time I could actually tell the difference between Demetrius and Lysander and Helena and Hermia. Not only that the characters, as performed, had real depth and motivation.

The big scene where they all fight while Oberon and Puck watch was brilliantly staged. They delivered their dialogue sharp and staccato, like they were in a 1930’s screwball comedy movie. And the fight choreography was equally fast and funny. The audience loved it. I’ve seen this play many times and I, personally, don’t remember laughing as much as I did at this performance.

I was around back in the eighties, and was probably about the same age then as many of the cast members are now. So, this “Midsummer” had a certain dream-like quality for me. It’s amazing how a play that was written 400 years ago can, it seems, have so much to say about other times and places. I don’t want to over-analyze it, but I’ll likely be going back to check it out again. If nothing else, I’m sure it will be another entertaining evening.

Pax, Vox

http://www.impacttheatre.com/

THE EDWARDIAN BALL WEEKEND, Jan 23-25, 2009

February 1, 2009

 

The Edwardian Ball, which happens every year in San Francisco, started nine years ago as a one night performance in a small, dark Folsom Street bar and has grown into a major social and theatrical event. The very first one featured the band Rosin Coven playing while actors and dancers performed a story from one of writer/artist Edward Gorey’s books. Every year since then the performances of the stories have gotten bigger and more elaborate, and so have the audiences. Somewhere along the way the historical re-creation crowd discovered the Balls and started showing up in real Edwardian clothing. Now almost everyone who attends dresses up in some way or another.

And it is surprisingly wonderful to be in a large crowd of people dressed in period costumes. Especially when they’re not all from the same period – some were from fantasies and alternative histories, some were characters from books (including Gorey’s and the science-fiction steampunk universe) and some seemed to having wandered in from Burning Man. The audience was as much a part of the show as what was happening on stage – kind of like it used to be in the early days of punk. The overall affect was of being in some other world. They were even serving absinthe! I don’t drink alcohol, but it was fun to watch the whole ritual that makes the absinthe turn green. And I got to meet the Green Faerie – she was mingling in the crowd and fit right in. It was that kind of weekend.

The first night had the theme of “The Edwardian World’s Fair.” There were steam-powered inventions set up throughout the Regency center, including a time machine motorcycle in the lobby. (Its inventor had successfully channeled the spirit of George Pal.) On stage first was the band “Abney Park.” Rumor has it that they were from some place called Seattle, but they claimed to have “come from an era that never was, but one that we wish had been. An era where airships waged war in the skies, and corsets and cummberbunds were proper adventuring attire.”

Friday’s headliners “Rasputina” were, according to their official history, “formed by cellist/singer Melora Creager in 1891.” Well over a century later Creager still looks great in a corset, and continues to be backed up by another cello player and a percussionist. They might actually be Victorian, not Edwardian, but they fit right in when they took the stage after midnight –  their music was appropriately dark and mysterious.

Saturday night was “The Edwardian Ball” itself, featuring three one-act plays that were staged by house band Rosin Coven and the multi-talented Vau De Vire Society. Their first story of the evening was an original, a tribute to writer/cartoonist Edward Gorey. He lived in New York and, when George Balanchine was alive and choreographing, Edward Gorey went to every performance of the New York City Ballet. He always wore a full-length fur coat, lots of outrageous jewelry, and sneakers. The ballet was one of his inspirations, and the dancers were his muses. So, at the Ball, while Rosin Coven accompanied them with a slow blues, the Vau De Vire Society danced and played cartoon ballerinas, and the character of Edward Gorey brought them to life and then cleverly killed them off.

The second play was a dramatization of Edward Gorey’s short story “The Disrespectful Summons.” For this one Rosin Coven was joined by guest artists Cirque Berzerk. “The Disrespectful Summons” is about a woman who sells her soul to the devil and pays the price in the end. But of course as Gorey wrote it , it was all very clever and entertaining.

And this was all just a warm-up to the grand finale, an epic staging of Gorey’s  “The Tuning Fork.” The original story is only 168 words long, with 16 black and white illustrations. In the Regency Center Ballroom that night it was magic – a fantasy that was made real. This was the first year the Ball has been in actual ballroom, and it has a big stage. The Vau de Vire society are, among other things, talented circus acrobats, and they finally had some room to show off what they can really do. The combination of acting, dance, music, costumes, puppets and computer technology, and the particular time and place, was radical, beautiful and unforgettable.

Pax,

Vox

http://www.edwardianball.com/

 

 

“All’s Well That Ends Well.” San Francisco Free Civic Theatre.

December 12, 2008

One of the things I like about going to plays is that I get to visit places I’ve never been before. And that could be interpreted in two ways: when I watch a play what usually happens is that I enter into a world that is different from the one that I live in. But what it also means is that as I find out about new productions I see plays performed in a surprising variety of interesting spaces. San Francisco Free Civic Theatre provided both experiences last weekend with “All’s Well That Ends Well.” I’d never heard of them until the night before I saw the play. They are, it turns out, sponsored by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and they put on shows in these hidden little theaters in buildings that are owned by the city. What a great idea!

“All’s Well That Ends Well” is one of Shakespeare’s “problem” plays and, even in the summer festival season, it is not often performed in the Bay Area. I am a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays so it was like an early holiday present to be able to see it in the winter when many other theater companies are doing “The Christmas Carol” and that kind of stuff. This “All’s Well” might also appeal to those who are fans of Tim Burton movies like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride,” and “Edward Scissorshands.” The make-up and costumes were all very goth, and it seemed to fit the very strange and twisted love story that “All’s Well That Ends Well” is. (And for those who have a hard time following the story, there is a 4-page scene by scene synopsis in the program!)

Amy Boulanger, playing Helena, and Robert Cooper, playing the king were both excellent – there was chemistry between them, and they brought something new to those roles that I’d never seen before. There was real heart and soul in their scenes together. But the rest of the cast were also quite good – this is obviously a labor of love, and they all seemed to be having a good time putting on a show for their community.

And it is, of course, a community that you can still be a part of. This weekend the play is being performed within walking distance of the Castro Muni Station, so it’s very accessible by public transportation. And, as their name says, it really is free:

http://www.sffct.org/playing.html

Pax,

Vox

“The Monk,” No Nude Men Productions

November 8, 2008

Wow, this was insane. But really good! For the duration of the play I was inside the minds of people who were experiencing insanity, or something like it. Or at least that’s what it felt like. The play was constantly shifting points of view, and realities, and what was going on wasn’t always clear. But that was part of the pleasure of being in the audience. “The Monk” was full of surprises, right up until the very end. So I can’t really say what the story was, not right now, right after I’ve left the theater and haven’t had time to really unravel it and read the program notes and the souvenir comic book I bought afterwards. The thing that is most in my mind right now is that this was a tale about telling tales – and it was very well told.

The cast was really talented, and well directed. They were able to weave in and out of all these complicated things that were going on, but at no point did I lose interest. Quite the opposite – I was fascinated by it. This is the third production I’ve seen from “No Nude Men,” and I’m really impressed with how they put on a show. I loved their updated versions of “Love’s Labors Lost” and “Hamlet.” “The Monk” was, at times, spooky, mysterious and funny, which makes it a perfect play to see around this time of year. Halloween is over, but it gets dark earlier and the nights are longer, and it’s the season for ghosts, murder and magic. It was also a good neighborhood to see it in: the second act of the story takes place in catacombs and tombs and underworld labyrinths, and when I walked outside afterwards I felt like that’s where I was.

Whew. I’ve only been doing this blog for a couple of months, and I usually wait a few days to write and post my comments after I see a new play. But it seems like a gut reaction is appropriate for “The Monk,” so I’m going to go ahead and put this online less than an hour after seeing it. The play was an intense, visceral experience, and this is my reaction. But I don’t want it to sound too creepy – it was fun! Go see it!

Pax, Vox

http://www.theexit.org/now.html

http://www.myspace.com/ambrosioandmatilda