Sunday, September 28, 2008
The hard-boiled critic slashes into the gala Opening Night crowd at The Magic Theatre, avoids the boiled shrimp and champagne with a sneer, finds his assigned seat, checks his cell phone for messages before turning it off (there aren't any), then sits down and prepares his knife-like adjectives to carve up the cast. Why? Because it's Opening Night, that's what we do.
Laura Schellhardt's "The K of D," which plays through October 19 at the Magic, is a terrific show and Maya Lawson, who plays all the kids in a small rural town where at least one, no, two murders have taken place, is astonishingly good. There's spooky Charlotte and gangsta wannabe Trent and a guy named Kwisp and bubble-gum cigarette smoking Becky and the girl whose father is the Chrysler dealer, and there's also Charlotte's mother and father and dead brother, and then there's the really evil Johnny with the dogs and the narrator/sort of, and don't you dare forget the heron.
On Opening Night Lawson is already moving into all these characters and in a few more weeks she will own them. She makes you forget she's all by herself on that stage as each of her characters assume their own lives. After the show even the cackling coven of critics was heard whispering comments like: "Darn, she's good!" Plus "Wow. What a terrific show!"
The K of D had its premiere in Washington D.C. early this year and is still evolving. It's very good now, and although I suggest you hold off a week or two and let it grow a bit, don't you dare miss this run of The K of D. You just might be bowled over.
RATINGS : ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The K of D" Three Stars with two BANGLES of Praise. The writer, director and actress deserve one star each, as much for their gutsy chance taking as for their excellent deliveries. One Bangle of Praise is for Schellhardt's concept of the Urban Legend, and the question of what is real and what is only imagined. It's funny but equally thought provoking. The other Bangle is for Trent's father's line about his boy who'd rather shoot a gun than practice the piano: "If someone breaks into your house, do you want a kid who can shoot a gun or play a minuet?" That gun, not the piano, comes back to haunt everybody, especially the heron.
OK, you want to know what 'K of D' stands for. Here's a hint: Charlotte kisses frogs. Lots of things die. Put it together, then go see the show.
The K of D: An Urban Legend
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Wed.-Sun. Through Oct. 19
$40 and $45
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Everybody knows Tom Stoppard is a genius. They go to the theater to be bowled over by his cleverness, his mixing up of present and past and, probably above all, the fascinating topics he chooses to explore. "Rock and Roll," which had its Broadway premiere in 2007, has all of these and more. It's got rock and roll music. It's got politics. It's got failed Commies. It's got unrequited love which, in the end, pays off in a happy ending. What's not to like?
Nothing, if you were to go by the audience reaction on Opening Night at A.C.T. Theater. People cheered, whistled and demanded curtain calls. They laughed at every single joke. It was as if the playwright was their buddy and they already knew every line.
But not everyone was bowled over, at least not up in this reviewer's portion of the first balcony. He was not alone in wondering if the ponderous Act One was EVER going to end so he could loudly wrinkle the wrapper and eat the chocolates he had in his pocket. Every time he looked down his aisle, he noticed a continuous electronic sea of watch flashes, as people kept checking to see if the brilliant playwright had actually managed, for once and for all, to stop the hands of time.
By Intermission, all six truffles had melted into one! They were frozen when the show started. Add it up.
Act Two was better. Finally, Max (Jack Willis) became human in addition to bombastic. The excellent Jan (Manoel Felciano) aged believably. At last, the rock and roll imagery started to make sense, outside of marking the passing years. And the touching last scene almost paid off the lengthy setup.
Here it is in a nutshell: If we discovered 'Rock and Roll,' by an unknown playwright, in a small local theater, we would probably love it. But the huge, glitzy A.C.T. performance falls short. In the end, it doesn't matter how brilliant the playwright is, or how thick the press packet, or how interesting the autobiographical back story: it grabs you or it doesn't. 'Rock and Roll' has too much talk and not nearly enough rock.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG baub
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards 'Rock and Roll' Three Stars with one Bangle of Praise and one bauble of despair. The excellent actors' ensemble, Douglas W. Schmidt's set and Alex Jaeger's costumes bring two stars by themselves, and vintage Stoppard lines like "Everything is dissident except shutting up and eating shit" are easily worth another. The BANGLE is for Jan and Esme's joy at the end. It's so, so contrived, but also so perfect.
Still, 'Rock and Roll' should be better than it is. The bauble of despair is for just that. It should be better.
'Rock and Roll'
American Conservatory Theater
415 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through October 18