"Wittenberg": A Play with Comedy and Heart

Categories: Comedy, Theater

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Courtesy of Aurora Theatre Company
'Wittenberg' director Josh Costello

As the literary manager of the Aurora Theatre, Josh Costello reads a lot of scripts. And he fell in love with David Davalos' "Wittenberg," a tale of Hamlet as a university student suffering a crisis of faith and torn between following advice from his philosophy professor, Doctor Faustus, or that of Martin Luther, professor of theology.

"It's a combination of it being a very smart play with two other things -- there's a lot of really silly comedy that makes me laugh, and there's a lot of heart too," Costello says. "There are characters who care about each other and are striving for things."

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Artist Rudolf Bauer: From Nazi Prison Camp to the Guggenheim, his Story Comes to S.F.

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Courtesy of the Weinstein Gallery
"ConRoso"<, His Story Is Explored Through Art /td>

Ever since he Rudolf Bauer's work at a gallery in New York in 2005, Rowland Weinstein, owner of the Weinstein Gallery on Geary, has been entranced.

"Oh my God, it's so vibrant and colorful," he says, pointing to a painting, "ConRoso" hanging on the wall of his gallery. "When I look at it, it's so magnetic -- I feel like I could stare at it for hours and go on a complete and total journey."

Weinstein started researching Bauer's life and found an amazing story that includes a love triangle, a Nazi prison camp, and tons of betrayal. After being called the greatest living artist by the New York Herald Tribune and having it hang in the Guggenheim Museum, Bauer's work fell into obscurity.

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"Wrestling Jerusalem": Telling the Complex Palestinian-Israeli Story

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Ken Friedman
Aaron Davidman, wrote and performs 'Wrestling Jerusalem'

With "Wrestling Jerusalem," his solo show at Intersection for the Arts, playwright and actor Aaron Davidman wants to do something seemingly impossible -- present the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one of the most entrenched of our time, in a nuanced way- as a story rather than a diatribe.

"I like to say my play is not a protest play unless it's protesting polemic, in which case it is a protest play," he said. "To realize things aren't so black and white -- that's the new radical."

Davidman, former artistic director of the now defunct Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco, has written two other plays about the issue, which he feels is a central one for American Jews. Plus he thinks it makes great drama.

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"Lasso of Truth" Explores Wonder Woman's Unconventional Origins

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Kevin Berne
Lauren English (The Girl) and John Riedlinger (The Guy) in Carson Kreitzer's Lasso of Truth.

Growing up in upstate New York, playwright Carson Kreitzer wasn't allowed to watch much TV, but her mom made an exception for Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and Kreitzer loved seeing a strong, compassionate woman helping others rather than waiting to be rescued. While doing research on lie detectors for another play she was involved in, she found out that the man who had invented the precursor to that machine, psychologist William Moulton Marston, had also been the created her childhood heroine with her lasso of truth. She also learned about his unconventional lifestyle -- he had lived with both a wife and a research assistant, had children with both, and was interested in bondage. Suddenly Wonder Woman's bullet-deflecting cuffs, boots and bustier took on a whole different meaning.

Kreitzer was upset thinking that Wonder Woman was just another male sexual fantasy and started looking into Wonder Woman's creator and the women she was based on. That led her to write "Lasso of Truth," which is premiering at the Marin Theatre Company before going on to Georgia and Missouri.

In the play, we see the stories of the Inventor, the Wife and the Amazon (with the help of comic panels on the walls) as well as the contemporary story of the Girl, who wants the original Wonder Woman comic and the Guy, who works in a comic book store and owns that comic. Kreitzer talked to SF Weekly about the importance of heroes with kindness as well as power, unconventional views moving society forward, and how little boys as well as little girls needing strong women to look up to.


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"The Altruists" Aims to Occupy Your Funny Bone

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Courtesy of Julia Lienke
Cast of "The Altruists" from left to right: Ronald Walker, Lance Kunze, Sydney Whipple, Ethan Bedillion and Cybil Ingland

The question that's perhaps most frequently asked by the news-junky crowd, with an appreciation for irreverent humor, is "Too soon?"

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A Non-Conformist, Anti-Hero Grabs the Spotlight in "Jerusalem"

Categories: Interview, Theater

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Photo by Jessica Palopoli
Brian Dykstra as Rooster, calling in the giants.

In "Jerusalem," Jez Butterworth's Tony and Olivier winning play, Brian Dykstra enjoys occupying the role of Johnny "Rooster" Byron, a former motorcycle daredevil, now living in a falling apart mobile home in the woods of England, where he's energetically drinking, taking drugs, telling stories to friends and hangers on, and resisting efforts by county officials who want to evict him.

"It's just such a big bite," Dykstra said. "The other actors are just delicious, and I enjoy playing with them, and the play itself is so mysterious and magical and then not, so that's always fun."

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Marga Gomez's Latest, "Lovebirds" Isn't Just for Lovers

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Patti Meyer
Marga Gomez in "Lovebirds"

Marga Gomez remembers the 1970s as a time of experimentation and liberation.

"Everyone thought they were Salvador Dali, and you could fall in love every five minutes," she said. "Then you had Reagan and AIDS."

On the phone from Los Angeles, where she took an impromptu trip after the opening weekend of "Lovebirds," her latest solo show at the Marsh, Gomez says she wanted the audience to get caught up in that feeling of freedom and exploration.

In interconnecting stories, we meet a cabaret owner, Orestes, in love with a singer who can't sing. The singer has a husband who claims (through yawns) to only need 45 minutes of sleep a night.

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Oakland Playwright Explores New Orleans Ancestry in a World Premiere at Berkeley Rep

Categories: Interview, Theater

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Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
The women of "The House that will not Stand"

Poet and playwright Marcus Gardley grew up in West Oakland, but his relatives (who were also his neighbors), came from New Orleans, which influenced him as much as the Bay Area did. He's always been interested in his ancestry, taking French in college and reading whatever he can find about New Orleans.

That's how he found the subject for his new play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, The House that will not Stand, about free women of color in 1836 New Orleans, women who lived as spouses of wealthy white men. Gardley was fascinated by this little-known history.

"These African American women were millionaires," he said. "The best they could they made the system work for them - they owned houses, and they were involved in politics. Many scholars consider them the first real civil rights activists. They were majorly influential in getting people freed from slavery, including their own relatives."

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Classic Abusurdist Play, "Ubu Roi" at the Cutting Ball - Ridiculous, Joyful, and Profound

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Photo Tatiana Karpekina
Father Ubu (standing c, David Sinaiko) in The Cutting Ball Theater's production of Ubu Roi.
In 1896, when the play premiered in Paris, audiences rioted after the first word "Merderer." The author, Albert Jarry, made up a philosophy, pataphysics, (Paul McCartney referenced it in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"). The story of a mad king taking over Poland, it loosely parodies "Macbeth," with references to other Shakespeare plays, including "Richard III", "A Winter's Tale," and "Hamlet."

With the Cutting Ball Theater's mission to produce "experimental new plays and re-visioned classics, with an emphasis on language and images," "Ubu Roi" was a natural fit. Rob Melrose and Paige Rogers, co-founders of the theater, had met Russian director Yury Urnov in Poland and wanted to work with him. First they looked at Russian plays, but then "Ubu Roi" came up, and Melrose, whose other translations include Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit" and Eugène Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano" did a translation of Jarry's play, trying to make it as faithful to the original as he could.

"People sometimes try to make it as shocking as they can," he said. "It caused a riot after the first word, so they end up going after what people's idea of what would be shocking today."

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"Gidion's Knot" at the Aurora Theatre Deals with Unconditional Love

Categories: Interview, Theater

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Courtesy photo

When Johnna Adams wrote "The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn," her father insisted on coming to Orange County to see it. He sat through the onstage nudity, the simulated sex scenes, and through an actor sitting in his lap and pulling his beard. And he was totally supportive about it.

"For him, I think it was the most uncomfortable thing in the world," Adams said. "As time went on, every time he talks about the play it gets better. Now the way he tells it, it's a masterpiece, and if I die tomorrow, this play is my legacy that he's going to champion."

That was the genesis for Adams' latest play, "Gidion's Knot": At a parent/teacher conference, a mother wants to know why her son was suspended from 5th grade. The play develops a little like a mystery -- was the son a bully? A victim?

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