Encore

Our critics weigh in on local theatre

The Lion King. How do you turn a decent cartoon about African wildlife into a lame Broadway musical? 1) Puzzle carefully about the problem of costumes and sets. Pour millions of dollars and hours of mental energy into making your actors look like lions, hyenas, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, and birds. Solve the problem brilliantly. Hire Julie Taymor to design the magnificent costumes and masks (and to direct the show). Hire Garth Fagan to choreograph elegant, exciting, Afro-Caribbean dance routines. Make sure Donald Holder lights the stage with an eloquent feeling for African distances and sunshine. In general make the show a visual feast. Then, 2) squint in confusion at the script, and 3) carve it up to make room for appalling songs by Tim Rice and Elton John. You'll have a profitable bunch of nonsense with more than one God-soaked number that sounds indistinguishable from bad Whitney Houston. The only cast member who can transcend this mess and give a stirring performance is Thandazile Soni, as Rafiki the monkey shaman, who gets to sing songs like "Nants' Ingonyama," by Lebo M and other African chants originated by Tsidii Le Loka on Broadway. Bob Bouchard is also funny as Pumbaa the warthog, and Derek Smith plays a perfectly arrogant, sinister Scar, the pretender lion king. Otherwise the show is forced and childish. Adults looking for good theater will be happier when the performers dance instead of trying to act. Through Nov. 21 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Tickets are $26-160; call 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Feb. 11.

Not a Genuine Black Man. It's not easy being green, but try being a black kid in San Leandro in the early '70s. When Brian Copeland got there -- just a few months after the Summer of Love, he points out -- it was one of the most viciously racist suburbs in America. Now it's officially the most diverse. "Take that, San Francisco," Copeland chides. He's earned that attitude, not just for going through his hell of growing up, but also for extracting from it such affirmative, hilarious stuff. Copeland's rightfully popular one-man show is wrought from pain and rage, but never really succumbs to bitterness. "Is that black?" he asks, and proves that it is. Some of his best stereotype-busting material doesn't feel especially new, but it does feel good. Besides, it's the stereotypes that have passed their expiration dates: Copeland's title comes from an accusation recently flung at him by a cranky listener who called in to his KGO radio program. This show is his response. With help from declarative lighting and David Ford's direction, Copeland creates an affecting hybrid of the dramatic monologue and the rollicking stand-up act. Through Oct. 30 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 2.

Also Playing

411: An average woman gets a new lease on life when she calls information and reaches an oracle instead. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 31, $15-20. The Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), Trinity Episcopal Church, 333-6389.

69Stories: One Pervert's Tale & No Good Deed: Two stories of sex -- the first is an erotic solo show about S.F.'s S/M community, the second is a tale of turning a nice girl into a naughty one. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, $15-20. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

Addicted: Mark Lundholm discusses his bad habits, from drugs to alcohol to the Internet, not to mention shopping, chocolate, and golf. Visit www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com for a schedule of performances. Through Nov. 14, $20-40, 771-6900. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 877-771-6900.

AfroSolo Arts Festival: The 11th edition of the annual arts festival features African-American artists and their visual arts exhibitions, dance, music, theater, spoken word, and performance art. Through Oct. 15, free-$50, www.afrosolo.org. Multiple locations, multiple addresses within San Francisco.

And Then They Came for Me--Remembering the World of Anne Frank: The children's play mixes taped interviews with Holocaust survivors with child actors acting out the scenes on the tape. Each show includes a Q&A period with Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss. Mon.-Fri., 10:15 a.m.; Through Oct. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 24, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 24, $5-10. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Are We Almost There?: Morris Bobrow's rollicking, long-running musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of travel. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m., $20-22. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Avant GardARAMA!: Cutting Ball Theater presents an evening of short experimental plays from Richard Foreman, Heiner Muller, Suzan-Lori Parks, Mac Wellman, and Rob Melrose. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, $15-25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 8 p.m., $8, for more information call 474-6776. Fort Mason, Bldg. B, Marina & Buchanan.

Beach Blanket Babylon: This North Beach perennial features crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Wed., Thur., 8 p.m.; Fri., Sat., 7 p.m. & 10 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. & 7 p.m., $25-65. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

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