Aisle Seat

Rush Redux
Don't take food from strangers. Apparently, that's what separates New Yorkers from Californians. After a bazillion weeks of sold-out houses at the Marsh, Charlie Varon's Glickman Award-winning Rush Limbaugh in Night School zipped off to New York -- a fitting destination, since the titular "night school" refers to the New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village. At one point in the show, Varon plays a New School professor pontificating on the origins of food. He peels a pear, passing out slices to "students" (audience members) as he lectures. In S.F., the crowd noshed complacently; in New York, Varon had difficulty finding people who would even take the fruit -- much less eat it. This threw the performer for a loop, though he's a native New Yorker. The show didn't receive the great notices it did here, but according to spokesperson Valerie Gilbert, "mixed" is a better word. The New Yorker virtually glowed; Howard Kissel of the Daily News loved the show, the Post was lukewarm and the New York Times "just didn't get it," Gilbert says. But it's the Times that matters in New York. So Night School is back at the Marsh. And Sundays from May 21 through June 25, Bay Area targets of the Limbaugh school of thought will make cameo appearances as part of "A Festival of Freethinking." The series will include such "wackos" as sexpert Susie Bright, Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll and Brian Freeman of Pomo Afro Homos.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Leaving a job is often like leaving a longtime lover: You go through ups and downs, anger, sadness, hope for the future and appreciation for the past. When I interviewed Benny Sato Ambush about his resignation as ACT's associate artistic director, he was having one of those hurt-and-angry moments. After giving temperate, gentlemanly comments to the press, the dam broke, and Ambush feels he came off as much more scathing and resentful than he really is -- specifically toward artistic director Carey Perloff. "There was a way to say all of that without it seeming like character assassination," Ambush says. "I don't mean to represent what her aesthetic is ... Nor do I judge her ... Carey has been very nice to me and has supported me ... Truth be told, there's much aesthetically we do agree on." Though he commented on ACT's "lily-white season," he maintains that race was not an overriding issue in his departure. Ambush felt his dignity was being compromised, so he left. But, he says, "I was there almost five years and most of them were good. It was just time to go." He adds: "The community needs ACT. I hope they make it -- I hope they evolve -- but ... I wish them well."

By Laura Jamison

 
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