Encore

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Cherry Docs. In David Gow's gritty drama (whose title refers to the cherry red Dr. Martens boots popularly worn by skinheads), an ambitious lawyer, Danny (Aaron Davidman), improbably decides to defend a young neo-Nazi, Mike (Eric Rhys Miller), who's being held in solitary confinement in a Canadian prison for murdering a Hindu man. Interspersing lyrical speeches on Jewish ritual with dark thoughts about life in jail, Gow's writing is as hardheaded as it is poetic. Although Davidman doesn't quite convince us of his character's reasons for taking on the case in the first place, both actors give carefully drawn, purposeful performances. Davidman makes for a suitably nebbishy, tortured lawyer, while Rhys Miller's Mike is all pinched-faced cynicism and snarling hate. The play's structure -- which goes something like this: monologue-monologue-dialogue, monologue-monologue-dialogue, etc. -- gets somewhat tedious after a while. Naomi Newman's direction brings out the emotional struggle and the ideological contradictions in Gow's play, but does little to alleviate the monotony of its rhythm. Playing June 9-19 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College (at Ashby), Berkeley. Tickets are $12-35; call 285-8080 or visit www.atjt.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed June 1.

Here Lies Jenny. Bebe Neuwirth has an unusual voice. It's not what you would call beautiful. In Here Lies Jenny, a showcase of loosely knit songs by German composer Kurt Weill, she sounds a bit like a sheep nursing a hangover. Weill's songs have long been favorites of many a diva, with artists as diverse as German chanteuse Ute Lempe and operatic soprano Dawn Upshaw bringing their own particular qualities to the composer's brazenly sweet melodies and galumphing accompaniments. Although the Tony Award-winning Neuwirth is a charismatic, intense performer, the songs all sound rather similar: There's surprisingly little variety in the star's delivery. The show combines the talents of several Broadway luminaries -- including director Roger Rees, choreographer Ann Reinking, and set designer Neil Patel -- but for all the talent it feels cobbled together. Patel's dingy European speak-easy is evocative enough, but Reinking's movements are predictably camp, leaving Neuwirth frequently falling into the arms of some muscle-bound, wife beater-wearing stud. As a vehicle for one of this country's most prominent musical theater artists, Here Lies Jenny lacks drive. Through June 26 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $35-55; call 771-6900 or visit www.poststreettheatre.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed May 18.

I Look Like an Egg, But I Identify as a Cookie. In her solo show, Heather Gold recounts the journey from Niagara Falls (where she spent the first 19 years of her life) to her current role as San Francisco's resident lesbian domestic goddess -- while baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies in front of a live audience. Even as she's plunking bits of soggy dough onto a battered metal baking tray and babbling on about her rugby-playing days as a law student at Yale, Gold, wielding her remarkable improvisation skills, creates an atmosphere of cozy intimacy. Certain parts of her monologue ramble on for too long, but even during the show's most half-baked moments, it's easy to understand why the audience gets so involved: Gold makes for an endearingly slapdash cook. Each performance involves a special guest, and it's a sheer pleasure to see a food-themed show that's not about battling one's body image (as is so often the case with productions by female artists -- e.g., Eve Ensler's The Good Body) and a program stuffed with recipes for delicacies like gingersnaps and caramel chocolate squares. Through June 20 at Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), S.F. Tickets are $30-50; call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.subvert.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Jan. 12.

Macbeth. Sigmund Freud's ghost haunts Cutting Ball Theater's production of Macbeth with far greater persistence than Banquo's. Before the play even begins, our eyes are greeted with an intensely psychological space. Set designer Michael Locher's trim, brightly lit, white performing area bordered by five white doors brings a padded cell more readily to mind than a wind-swept Scottish moor. Doors are portals into Macbeth's mind, and the production pays little attention to what's going on in the outside world. Although the Freudian symbolism (dead babies, characters with split personalities, etc.) feels heavy-handed in places, this Macbeth is intriguing, intellectually involving, visually imaginative, and -- best of all -- funny. Garth Petal is a formidable presence as Macbeth. He brings out, with impeccable comic timing, the dark humor in his character. Despite its strengths, however, the production suffers from trying to incorporate too many ideas. The six-actor cast only exacerbates the confusion: Having each actor play several roles cleverly emphasizes the work's internal landscape, but if you don't know Macbeth very well, it's easy to get lost. Through June 11 at the Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor (between Eddy and Ellis), S.F. Tickets are $20-25; call 419-3584 or visit www.cuttingball.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed June 1.

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 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 June 25 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, 2004.

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