Holidays and Beyond: Theater

From the Golden Girls (in drag) to Harold Pinter to Marga Gomez's newest comic masterpiece, it's a season of the highbrow and the lowbrow (but never the middlebrow).

Latin Standards (Photo by Fabian Echevarria)

FlashPlays! Annual Winter Micro-Play Festival
Dec. 16-17, at The Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion, playwrightsfoundation.org
The Playwrights Foundation’s eighth annual FlashPlays! winter festival returns with more than 80 plays — each one lasting around a minute. The festival is a benefit for the Playwrights Foundation and a celebration of San Francisco by a diverse group of Bay Area writers, including Anthony Clarvoe, Britney Frazier, Patricia Milton, Tanya Shaffer, Jonathan Spector, and Michael Gene Sullivan.

Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties
Jan. 8-9, at Shotgun Players, shotgunplayers.org
In these staged readings, five embattled Betties declaim their angry set of frustrations. To have a better sense of the subject matter, it’s worth reading the entire subtitle: In Essence a Queer and Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were in Middle School and You Read About Shackleton and How He Explored the Antarctic?; Imagine the Antarctic as a Pussy and It’s Sort of Like That. This is one effort at hastening the patriarchy’s sure and steady decline.

In Event of Moon Disaster
Jan. 3-28, at Z Space, zspace.org
Mugwumpin, the San Francisco theater and performance company, is about to land at Z Space. Advance photographs feature a violin player with a giant moon mask in place of her head, and five troupe members in space costumes. They’re interested in questions such as “What lies beneath our desire to leave Earth?” and “When you look at the moon, what do you see?”

The Birthday Party
Jan. 10-Feb. 4, at A.C.T., act-sf.org
What better season to revive a Harold Pinter play than in the bleak midwinter? His frightfully English idea of a birthday party is very far removed from your standard-issue American celebration. No candy colors or bright balloons infest the rafters of this moldering seaside boarding house. As the party guests start to arrive, so, too, does the atmosphere of menace and doom.

Louie Anderson: Dear Dad
Jan. 10-14, at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, act-sf.org
Casting Louie Anderson as Zach Galifianakis’ mother in the TV series Baskets was an absurd but winning idea. Last year, Anderson received an Emmy for the performance. In this solo show, he adapts his 1991 memoir of the same name, addressing his late father, an alcoholic and failed musician, in a series of humorous yet poignant anecdotes.

Latin Standards
Jan. 11-28, at Brava Theater Center, brava.org
The tagline for Marga Gomez’s 12th solo play reads “Cuban Dad. Lesbian Kid.” Gomez revisits the paternal territory she explored in 1995’s A Line Around the Block, but her perspective has shifted. In this production, she concentrates on the inheritance she received from her late father — i.e., his showbiz ambitions and accomplishments — and how they fueled her own.

Still at Risk
Jan. 19-Feb. 25, at New Conservatory Theatre Center, nctcsf.org
Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Friedman died on Sept. 9 at age 41, from HIV/AIDS-related complications. While there are effective drug therapies that stave off the virus for years, there’s still no cure. Tim Pinckney’s new play explores the life of an activist who survived the initial crisis, and his renewed sense of purpose in an era dominated by PrEP prescriptions and short attention spans.

The Cutting Ball Variety Pack
Feb. 2-13, at the EXIT on Taylor, cuttingball.com
For two weeks of “collaboration and exploration,” theater geeks, devotees, and casual voyeurs alike can witness the creative process together. Cutting Ball has designed three different approaches for audiences and makers to go behind the scenes. The Directors, Playwrights, and Reading Series present new, experimental performances — combining theater, music, and movement — and previously unpublished works in progress.

Office Hour
Feb. 22-March 25, at Berkeley Rep, berkeleyrep.org
Two years after the successful run of Aubergine, Julia Cho returns to Berkeley Rep with Office Hour. This time the L.A. playwright centers the story around a professor and her troubled, isolated student. Her coworkers and his classmates all come to fear and distrust his antisocial behavior. The scenario is less Goodbye, Mr. Chips and more We Need to Talk About Kevin, with careful attention paid to identity politics.   

Dance of the Holy Ghosts
March 9-31, at Ubuntu Theater Project, ubuntutheaterproject.com
In a recent production of Black Odyssey, Marcus Gardley incorporated song into his visionary retelling of Homer’s epic. The playwright, who grew up in West Oakland, includes gospel and the blues in Dance of the Holy Ghosts. At a memorial service, a man and his estranged grandson come to terms with each other and the ghosts that haunt them both.

Check out more from our Holidays and Beyond issue here:

At the Midway, Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Year
Breakfast of Champions rings in 2018 at the Dogpatch venue with increasingly big artistic ambitions.

Holidays and Beyond: Art
From a retrospective on hip-hop style to an investigation into Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the season’s exhibits cover virtually everything.

Holidays and Beyond: Books
A new novel by Dave Eggers, essays by Zadie Smith, and Denis Johnson’s posthumous short-story collection.

Holidays and Beyond: Comedy
How bad do you want to see Bill Murray? He’s coming this Friday to the Masonic.

Holidays and Beyond: Film
Star Wars, Madeline L’Engle, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role. It’s so much more than Paddington 2.

Holidays and Beyond: Music
St. Vincent is coming! St. Vincent is coming!

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