The Marsh Youth Theater doesn't hold back when mounting its original production about the life of Gotama Buddha. It has assembled three award-winning playwrights, an Indian/jazz-fusion composer, three live musicians, a video artist, and a Bollywood choreographer. This doesn't even account for the beautiful hand-painted sets, colorful costumes, and 25-member cast aged 10 to 16. It's like a blockbuster junior high musical trumpeting Buddhism's message of the Middle Path. The production is impressive, though the parallel side plot of a young San Francisco girl becoming disillusioned with the materialism filling her life feels underdeveloped. One day she wakes up and suddenly gives away her iPhone, then runs off to be homeless on Valencia; it lacks credible motivation. The first act moves slowly and there is still some off-key adolescent singing (even with a vocal coach), but the message and enthusiasm is refreshing, especially amid the usual Christian holiday storytelling. The Marsh, once again, should be applauded for being a vital community resource. The Youth Theater created this show, along with accompanying classes, to provide "quality theater arts education to any child who desires it, regardless of financial limitations or past experience." Now that is truly good holiday cheer.
Dec. 11-12; Dec. 16-19; Dec. 21-23; Dec. 27-31; Sun., Jan. 2; Jan. 7-9, 2010