The black-box theater at 533 Sutter used to be a bit of a dump. But ever since SF Playhouse moved in and gave the place a lick of paint, the venue has been transformed both physically and artistically. Directors Bill English and Susi Damilano not only possess a slick aesthetic sense (the sets, which are usually designed by English himself, are among the most ingenious and well-crafted to be found anywhere), but they also know how to pick and cast appealing plays. At times, the company's programming feels slightly safe — featuring tried-and-tested hits like Yasmina Reza's Art or works by bastions of the American theatrical repertoire such as Arthur Miller. But an influx of world premieres by hip, young writers such as Aaron Loeb and Mark Jackson promises to shake things up and take SF Playhouse to another level. Regardless of whether the work is brand-new or fraying at the edges, the imagination, energy, and precision that the ensemble brings to all its productions makes SF Playhouse's approach to theater feel constantly fresh.
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