Thursday, February 11, 2010

"The Safe House": UNRATED with BANG

"The Sandbox Series" has gotten the official go-ahead for three years of productions, according to Jon Tracy, Director of Artistic Development at San Francisco Playhouse, and that's good news for up-and-coming local playwrights. The idea is to use the playhouse's second stage to promote new works while the playwrights get to employ top drawer actors and directors. Geetha Reddy's "The Safe House" opens on Saturday, Feb. 13 and stars the amazing Amy Resnick, who knocked everybody's socks off in December's "She Stoops to Comedy," plus Brian Herndon, Marissa Keltie and Cole Alexander Smith. Nancy Carlin directs.

Judging from an earlier Preview, "The Safe House" is both weird and mesmerizing. Few design elements are included in Sandbox productions but you can see how a little more staging would ramp up the emotional impact of this survivalist farce. It's a hard show to categorize, and perhaps not one for everyone. But we found it fascinating and well written.

Crossbows, guns, knives, 9-11, Oklahoma City, the Unabomber and a family trying to hack out a haven within a world filled with real and imagined terrors -- "The Safe House" is already very good and will get better.


The San Francisco Theater Blog hopes to see every last Sandbox production, but due to viewing this show in an early Preview, SFTB will abstain from rating "The Safe House" at this time. Unofficially, however, we can say this much: even brand new and unadorned it's already intriguing. Staging will go a long way -- and maybe they'll look twice at the smug survivalist ranger -- we're still not sure what he's doing there, except to give Cole Alexander Smith a cool shot at a double role.

Even though the show is Unrated, we're handing out a BANGLE of EXCELLENCE because of the way the playwright handles time. You're backwards, you're forwards, you work your brain to keep up -- and then, at the end it all makes sense. We always like that.


"The Safe House"
San Francisco Playhouse
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through March 6

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Oedipus el Rey": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG BANG

Talking after the show Wednesday Night with Romi Dias, who plays Jocasta in Luis Alfaro's "Oedipus el Rey," having its World Premiere at the Magic Theatre, we understand that Alfaro gives very few staging suggestions in his scripts. This has left it up to Loretta Greco, Artistic Director of the Magic and director of the production, to interpret Alfaro's words. She has done a brilliant job. We imagine Luis Alfaro is grinning ear to ear, if playwrights ever do.

The story is bleak, for any age. Sophocles wrote "Oedipus the King" during the zenith of Greek drama and employed the classic Greek Chorus to explain and advance his retelling of the myth of King Oedipus of Thebes. Oedipus has vowed to rid the city of plague by finding and destroying the murderer of the previous King, Laius, but he is his own worst enemy. In the end he will be successful but destroy everything he knows and loves.

In Alfaro's version, the story takes place in a California prison. The four man Greek chorus is now Chicano and they wear orange prison costumes. Oedipus is a prisoner too, but has designs on becoming the King of a small neighborhood in L.A. Through a series of events, the ultimate fate of Oedipus, the Chicano, and Oedipus, the Theban are linked. The result is the same.

Joshua Torrez is a spectacular Oedipus, who battles the demons he knows and the myths he fears. Romi Dias's Jocasta, Oedipus's mother and lover, has a demanding part as both lover and protector of Oedipus; and the chorus is used innovatively, especially Marc David Pinate as blind Tiresias, Oedipus' presumptive father.

In modern times, the Oedipus we are familiar with is a demon who killed his father and slept with his mother. In Sophocles, and Luis Alfaro as well, the story is far more nuanced. Does it all come down to fate? Today we think we can control our destiny. These characters believe they are doing nothing but acting out the will of the Gods.

What is real? As Oedipus says, "we are all guilty of the lies we believe, the lies we choose." Now, as then, we are left to figure it out for ourselves.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Oedipus el Rey" Three Stars with Two BANGLES of PRAISE. Loretta Greco's innovative staging and pacing earns one star, the leads the second and the chorus the third. One BANGLE is given out for Jake Rodriquez's sound design where fifties songs always (and forever) appear at the right time. The second BANGLE is for the extra digs you'll hear if you speak Spanish -- for example, when one member of the chorus says of another: "He loves the I Ching." Another answers: "Yeah, Ai Chingado." (Untranslatable in a family blog.)

Great show. See it.

"Oedipus el Rey"
Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, San Francisco
Through Feb. 28