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From Parody to Powerhouse Performance
By Nirmala Nataraj (Jun 28, 2008)
John Ford’s “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore", is one of the most gruesome morality plays in Jacobean literature. With its turgid sensationalism, brusquely candid treatment of incest, and unrelenting presentation of the bilious clash between church and state, there are obvious congruencies with Shakespeare, but this tragedy foregoes Bard-like suggestiveness for categorical bawdiness. More
The Final Three Shows of 2007/2008
By Nirmala Nataraj (Jun 20, 2008)
Looking for a little summer entertainment? You’re in luck -- the next few weeks at the San Francisco Opera portend some of the most bombastic, entertaining productions of the summer season, ranging from anachronistic renditions of Norse mythology to insanity-addled tales of romance and longing. Simply pop out the binoculars and settle in for some classic divertissement, with a twist. More
A Multicultural, Multilingual Feat
By Nirmala Nataraj (May 16, 2008)
The South Asian production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that is currently enjoying a run at the Curran Theatre seethes with the mischief and irrepressible sensuality that the Bard perhaps originally intended. This gorgeously hybridized, ingeniously rendered production is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before -- unloosed of the priggish, perfectly enunciated Queen’s English that tends to preclude any iota of visceral beauty and theatrical velocity. More
A Mammoth Achievement
By Nirmala Nataraj (May 2, 2008)
The Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s masterful revision of the Mozart opera “The Marriage of Figaro” is less classical redux and more the sort of performance that brings a much-needed draught of fresh air to fustian art forms that have little or nothing to do with our lives. Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s “Figaro” throbs with the vigor and beauty of its operatic antecedent, but the company, who brought down the house two years ago with their traveling masterpiece “The Miser,” adds so many subtle embellishments (all without mangling the epic gorgeousness of Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte’s beloved libretto) that the show transcends its formula quite effo More
Leave Before Last Call
By Nirmala Nataraj (Mar 8, 2008)
Let’s face it—the one-person show is typically the refuge of the very interesting or the very narcissistic. And when the person in question happens to be a prime specimen of cinematic and cultural arcana, the scales are almost always tipped in favor of vainglorious tell-alls. “Wishful Drinking” (which might have been more appropriately titled “Carrie Fisher Spills the Beans about Her Life, Willy-Nilly”) is one such example. More
Verbatim Theater
By jesse nathan (Feb 8, 2008)
James Baldwin believed fervently in the salvific power of literature -- and in the power of a writer to affect change. “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” There were limitations to that power, he believed, but had no other course than to address whatever corrupted principalities permeated the day. More
Get Into the Holiday Spirit
By Nirmala Nataraj (Dec 6, 2007)
‘Tis the season for holiday fare, and would Christmas really be complete without paying homage to the god of the dancing nutcracker? The San Francisco Ballet version of "The Nutcracker" is particularly special, since the War Memorial Opera House was the first American venue in which the beloved piece was performed, back in 1944. And to this day, both venue and performance still dazzle. More
Fleecing Heroism
By jesse nathan (Nov 22, 2007)
Macarthur Genius and playwright Mary Zimmerman describes her affinity for mythology this way: “As a child, myths always felt to me like grown-up fairy tales. Like fairy tales they contained adventures and supernatural elements…but I always sensed that there was a serious and darker layer to them.” Greek mythology is, as Zimmerman alludes to, alluring for its depth and fantastic symbolism. But these canonical myths are simultaneously intimidating for their layered darknesses. More
Quake on Stage at The Berkeley Rep
By jesse nathan (Nov 2, 2007)
“I am a real frog,” declares a green-gloved and generally Dr. Seussishly-outfitted character from the stage of the Berkeley Repertory Theater. “In fact, I am the sum total of all frogs!” And with these auspicious words, Frog himself sets out -- enlisting only the help of a flabbergasted tax collector called Mr. Katagiri -- to save Tokyo from Worm and his ruinous, subterranean undulations. More
Feel-Good and Unfaithful
By Nirmala Nataraj (Oct 26, 2007)
I haven’t seen Oprah Winfrey’s eponymous prime-time talk show in years, but it’s hard to deny her presence in our cultural milieu. Whether I’m eyeballing the needlessly self-aggrandizing covers of O magazine at my grocery store’s checkout stand, getting the scoop on a tawdry celebrity confessional on Oprah’s hot seat, browsing her book club selections at Borders, or reading a mawkish inspirational piece on Ms. Winfrey’s symptomatic do-gooding, I’ll be the first to admit that she’s officially planted her flag. More
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