Winter Arts Guide: Theater

This season, there's plenty of duende, Garcia Lorca's term for art that gives you the chills

Feb. 3-26, at Shotgun Players, Berkeley,

If you missed Rotimi Agbabiaka’s one-man show TYPE/CASTE last year at the Brava Theater Center, you’ve got another chance to see him. He’ll take the stage for one night in February as part of a monthlong festival featuring a variety of short run performances, including not one but two different solo shows by Mike Daisey. Yes, that Mike Daisey — the one who made This American Life listeners shudder to learn he may be prone to theatrical exaggeration, and, sniff, plain fabrication. Imagine that! Dance will also be healthily represented on the calendar by James Graham Dance Theatre, Hope Mohr Dance, Detour Dance, and EmSpace Dance.

Through Feb. 26, at Cutting Ball Theater,

What better season to enjoy a Norwegian playwright than this chilly winter. Director shot at Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. He’s cast Britney Frazier as the troubled newlywed home from what must have been one of the world’s most unsatisfying honeymoons. Last year, Frazier appeared on stage as a nearly mute teenager in SF Playhouse’s All of What You Love and None of What You Hate. It will be a refreshing change to see her dig into a more expressive, enduring role (from 1891!). One concern: The advance photography leads met believe that Urnov might be adjusting her character or the ending to fit the times. If Ibsen were alive today, would he approve?

Feb.1-26, at A.C.T.,

Based on Khaled Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns examines a friendship between two women living in contemporary Kabul. You’re more likely to recognize Hosseini’s name from his best-selling 2003 novel The Kite Runner, which, unfortunately, was made into a sentimental, melodramatic film. I am holding out hope that Ursula Rani Sarma’s adaptation will weather the page-to-stage translation better. This production will have enormous help from the presence of Denmo Ibrahim, whose performance in Yussef El Guindi’s Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat was one of the Perloff directs.

March 9-April 1, at Crowded Fire,

With two stunning works last season — Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment and El Guindi’s Our Enemies — Crowded Fire Theater was on a roll putting the disorientation of one’s racial place in America at the forefront of those productions. This theme continues with Mia Chung’s You for Me for You, which follows two North Korean sisters who try to escape from their homeland. The 2015 London Royal Court production of the play got rave reviews, so let’s chalk this one up as “Most Anticipated Play” of Winter 2017. If you need more convincing evidence, Chung just won the Stavis Playwright Award for outstanding emerging playwrights.

The Christians, through March 11, at SF Playhouse, Isaac’s Eye, Feb. 16-March 11, at Custom Made Theatre,

Theatrically speaking, 2017 looks like it might belong to the playwright Lucas Hnath. Later this spring, his play A Doll’s House, Part 2 will open on Broadway with some big names attached to it (Chris Cooper, Laurie Metcalf, Scott Rudin). You have to be a bold and brave writer to say, “I think I’ll write a viable sequel to an Ibsen play today.” In the meantime, two of his plays will open in San Francisco. First, there’s SF Playhouse’s production of The Christians (re: faith, and the lack thereof). Followed by Isaac’s Eye at Custom Made Theatre, which delves into a Hnathian version of the history of science. Here’s hoping someone considers mounting his Red Speedo next.

March 3 – April 2, at The New Conservatory Theatre Center,

Billie Holiday’s legend received some Hollywood shine with Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues. HBO hired Queen Latifah to flesh Bessie Smith back to life. Now, Jewelle Gomez has written a new play about the Blues singer and songwriter Alberta Hunter. Like Smith, her contemporary, Hunter was a lesbian in less-accepting times. Gomez charts the singer’s career from her early successes, to a 20-year hiatus during which she worked as a nurse, and back to her subsequent comeback in the 1970s. If you haven’t heard her records, this play should do wonders to revive interest in her voice and her life.

Antigone Feb. 4-25, and Lucia Berlin Feb. 13, at ZSpace,

New York City’s Noche Flamenco has re-conceived Sophocles’ Antigone and transformed it into dance. The movements, costumes and lighting permeate the atmosphere on stage with what the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca poetically called duende. Simply put, duende is that ineffable quality in art that gives you the chills. Contemporary flamenco plus a 441 BCE tragedy might sound like an unlikely combination, but co-founder and principal dancer Soledad Barrio moves her wrists and stamps her feet with dolor enough to honor Creon’s daughter. On a separate stage and for one night only, Word for Word performs two short stories by the late author Lucia Berlin. Her writing equals Raymond Carver’s, and she’s long overdue for recognition and laurels.

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