Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Scott Barry: RISE" ☼ ☼ ☼

Above all, Scott Barry is a performer. In a narrow, dark room with nothing but a chair for a prop, Barry controls your attention with his sharp dialogue and athletic movements. His new show "Rise," developed with Joshua Townshend-Zellner, is honest, heartfelt and above all funny.

The premise is simple: in his forties, Barry meets a girl who could become the love of his life, except for his fear of erectile disfunction, or in his case malfunction. We hear a lot about ED, and it all makes sense, especially he and his girl friend's crazed attempts to remedy the situation. We get touches of Barry's grandfather, the real man in the family, and we also meet his Penis, who needs a capital P because he talks (with a southern accent). We learn the dangers of internet experts, new-age gurus and oyster-brussels sprout smoothies.

We might quibble with the ending, which feels a little like a Hallmark card, but all in all we can see Barry taking this show to far larger venues. An ex-college football star, he already knows how to play to an audience.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Scott Barry's "Rise" Three Stars. He has a lot of moxie and wrings universality out of a subject not normally the topic of conversation. This run is almost over but keep your eyes and ears open for Scott Barry.

Scott Barry: "Rise"
The Exit Theater
156 Eddy Street, San Francisco
Through Mar 23

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Trouble Cometh" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

It's sharp, witty and contemporary. The World Premiere of Richard Dresser's "Trouble Cometh" is a unique story and production whose cleverness grabs your attention, but at the same time doesn't involve you all that much with the characters -- until the fabulous ending.

After that, OK! Now, we go back in our minds and think, Aha! That's why he was marrying her? All right, then. And his awful boss and that stereotype Indian? Now we get it. How about why the two women slavered over this milquetoast? Waddayaknow. It all makes sense. Sadly, the curtain has come down, the actors have received their ovations and the show is over.

"Trouble Cometh" is a farce with a warning. We can't reveal much about it, because surprise is everything here. Kyle Cameron plays Joe, the poor slob, who has been unemployed and struggling until he has met Susan (Marissa Keltie) who has introduced him to Dennis (Patrick Russell) and Kelly (Liz Sklar), who need someone to help develop and pitch a new Reality TV show to Vashti (Nandita Shenoy). Of course, producers being producers, they are clueless as to what happens to the real people their reality show would involve. Until the end, of course.

May Adrales directs and Nina Ball's sparse set design is eye-catching. It's not easy to know what to make of the slick, manufactured world of "Trouble Cometh," which, of course, is exactly the point.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division took some time to rate this show. Until the ending it might not have received a GO SEE rating, because none of the characters made us work up much of a sweat about them; afterwards, however, it jumped 'way past MEH and landed at MUST SEE. We've talked about the show for days afterwards and this is a welcomed rarity. Put it all together and we say: Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE.  GO SEEITH TROUBLE COMETH.

"Trouble Cometh"
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street, 2d floor of Kensington Park Hotel, San Francisco
Through June 27


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Echo Brown: "Black Virgins are Not For Hipsters" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

It's hard to pick a favorite bit from Echo Brown's terrific debut of "Black Virgins are Not For Hipsters." Maybe it's Officer Wayles, complete with the perfect body language of the self-entitled New York cop; maybe her Valley-Girl roommate Amy; or maybe her frustrated mother -- no, wait: the dance sequences. Preluded by Brown's comment that "Dancing is the only place where racial stereotyping is AOK!," she gets us on our feet while tossing off some painfully funny lines. If you've ever felt self-conscious while dancing, it just got worse.

Then the humor turns serious before it gets funny again -- and that part is amazing too. Brown can do voices, and inflections, and faces, but she's a lot more than a comedian -- she is a story teller of the first order. "Black Virgins are Not For Hipsters" is her coming-of-age-at-23-in-New York story, but it is also a universal tale of learning to deal with our own insecurities. Her hair, her face, her position in life, as well as the difficulties faced by young black men and women in a color-conscious country, all are grounds for biting reflection as well as raucous humor.

We may quibble with the ending, but it has a lot to do with not having a backstage. It would help a lot if she could leave the room and come back for her bows -- you'll see what we mean. Echo Brown is the real thing -- don't miss her.

RATING:  ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Divison awards "Black Virgins are Not for Hipsters" Four Stars, an impressively high rating for a first-time solo show. She has you on her side from her opening lines, as she both entertains and surprises. You'll still like Beyoncé, but Echo Brown shows you nothing is as simple as it seems.

Echo Brown: "Black Virgins are Not For Hipsters"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Thursdays and Saturdays EXTENDED through Sept 12