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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Point Break Live! Keanu Reeves' legacy looms large over this most excellent theatrical spoof of Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 film about a Los Angeles cop who goes under cover to infiltrate a gang of adrenaline-junkie surfing bank robbers. Never mind that the shoestring budget puts hiring Reeves, who starred in the film as FBI agent Johnny Utah, beyond the reach of the show's producers, New Rock Theater. While the plucky theatergoer selected at the start of each performance by audience applause to fill in for Reeves may not necessarily possess the star's cheekbones or surfer's physique, he (or she) will very likely manage to turn in at least as convincing a performance. Like Bigelow's movie, the stage adaptation hyperventilates. Familiarity with the film isn't mandatory, but it certainly helps us keep up with the hectic pace. The actors are so amped that they hardly ever stand still, and have a tendency to garble their lines in the drive to recreate action movie dynamics onstage. Yet it's impossible not to get swept up in the show's glorious chaos. Kevin Vasconcellos' animation sequence projected on a theater wall illustrates a wild car chase; an explosion at a gas station bursts before our eyes in a cataclysmic live fire-breathing display; and when the idiotic surfer bums suddenly don masks and morph into a gang of dangerous, bank-robbing criminals, the intensity of their assault takes us completely by surprise. Open run on Sundays at Fat City, 314 11th St. (at Folsom) S.F. Tickets are $25; call 866-811-4111 or visit www.pointbreaklive.com.(C.V.) Reviewed July 9.

Red State. The San Francisco Mime Troupe's latest politically charged musical comedy tackles its worthy subject — citizens must hold government responsible for how their tax dollars are spent — with its usual cheeky pluck. Yet overall the show fails to deliver either a rousing call to arms or a satisfying theatrical tale. On the theatrical front, this 90-minute show takes more than 30 minutes to get off the ground. We spend a lot of time simply hanging out with the hardscrabble folk of Bluebird, Kansas, learning about each one of them in painstaking detail before we get to the meat of the plot: It's Election Day 2008, the rest of the country has voted itself into a dead heat, and only Bluebird's votes can break the tie. Very few people in this country need to be told what hangs in the balance based on what Bluebird does, and yet the story quickly becomes not about the power of the vote but the power of not voting at all. Huh? This device may make some sense for the plot, but it doesn't pass muster as a strong political message to carry us into November and beyond. Through Sept. 28 at parks and public sites across the Bay Area. Free; call 285-1717 or visit www.sfmt.org. (M.R.) Reviewed July 9.

Teatro ZinZanni's Hail Caesar! Loosely based on the love affair between Cleopatra and "Chef" Caesar, the current Egyptian-themed production by San Francisco's long-running dinner theater company, Teatro ZinZanni, combines the sensual-brash cabaret singing talents of Debbie de Coudreaux (the only American other than Josephine Baker to have starred at Paris' Moulin Rouge) with the vaudevillian swagger of ZinZanni old-timer Frank Ferrante. What little plot the show has is quickly subsumed by the happy business of eating, drinking, and watching Ferrante and de Coudreaux' capable supporting cast of clowns, acrobats, and contortionists perform daredevil exploits mere feet beyond our dinner plates. Thanks to the professionalism of the performers, the gorgeousness of the "Spiegeltent" setting, the decent cuisine, and copiously flowing booze, Hail Caesar! makes for an entertaining way to spend an evening. Through Sept. 21 at the Spiegeltent, Pier 29 (at Battery), S.F. Tickets are $123-$197; call 438-2668 or visit www.zinzanni.org. (C.V.) Reviewed June 11.

Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium. Charles Busch's loving 1984 spoof of a similarly titled 19th-century melodrama by Victorien Sardou tells the story of a cross-dressed drag queen who fucks and finagles her way across 6th-century Greece until a Gypsy potion wreaks havoc on her plans. As a product of the "ridiculous theater" movement, a mid-20th-century offshoot of Dadaism, Surrealism, and the theaters of Cruelty and the Absurd, Theodora certainly wears silliness on its sleeve. Sardou wrote his version for the great stage actor Sarah Bernhardt. Busch, in turn, penned his adaptation to slake his own Bernhardt obsession. In homage to Bernhardt's passion for trouser roles and high drama, Busch's play features overblown characters in far-out situations. Director Russell Blackwood's somewhat slipshod pacing and rhythm prevents some of the scenes from achieving their full impact. But the heavily made-up actors in Thrillpeddlers' scrappy production attack their roles with such aplomb that the dementedness of Busch's narrative shines through the greasepaint anyway. Through Aug. 16 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Tickets are $25-$34.50; call 377-4202 or visit www.thrillpeddlers.com.(C.V.) Reviewed July 2.

American Joe: A drama by Lisa Reynal about a sniper and a writer. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 15. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Avant GardARAMA!: Short experimental plays produced by Cutting Ball Theater. Thursdays, Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 16. www.cuttingball.com. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

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