Friday, February 24, 2017

Maureen Langan: "Daughter of a Garbageman" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

 Maureen Langan may be the daughter of a New York City garbageman but she refuses to let that get her down. Get it? Refuse?

Her show starts out like that, a little slow, with a Joan Rivers sensibility, as she trashes the Kardashians for what seems like no reason -- I mean, do we really have to hear about them anymore?

Well, yes. Once Langan gets warmed up, her show picks us up and makes us howl. And Kim Kardashian is part of the story. Langan is a natural comedienne who you like so much you can't wait to hear more. G'head, just talk. Tell us about the Kardashians, your dad, your mom, anything, fine. Just don't stop.

A book and movie deal for Kim Kardashian, all because she did a sex tape? It's worth knowing that that really happened, just to hear Maureen Langan talk about it: "A vagina is a canal that is supposed to lead to her uterus, not to a book and movie deal."

 We love her father and mother too, though we're glad they were hers, not ours. Langan has a lot of guts to repeat some of the things her father said, but after the first shock his quips just get funnier and funnier. We love the "Top Jew" (her dad's request for the best doctor at Columbia Presbyterian) and Langan's hilarious description of the semi-colon (with perhaps a small apology to Viktor Borge).

Her mom, Irish to the core, ends up sympathetic, though she doesn't start out that way. There is a terrific set piece where Langan herself, as a thirteen year old trapped in front of three hospital doctors with clipboards on their laps, struggles to keep herself from 'fessing up to the family's dysfunction, or as her Mom would say, "Don't you go airing our dirty laundry."

 We love Maureen Langan. Go check out the garbage guy's little girl. You'll love her too.


The San Francisco Theater Blog's Award Division is happy to award Maureen Langan's "Daughter of a Garbageman" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. She is as funny as the best of the Marsh's long list of excellent solo performers, and only needs to tighten things up a bit. (A little less heading for the water bottle after every punch line, for example.)

The Bangle of Praise is for her wonderful line: "If Stephen Hawking is the smartest man in the world, how do we know? Who is checking his work?"

Maureen Langan: "Daughter of a Garbageman"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco 
Through March 25
$20-$35 (sliding scale)

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Fool for Love" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Eddie and May have been knocking us out since 1983, when Sam Shepard first directed "Fool for Love" at the Magic Theater.  The new 2017 Magic production, directed by Loretta Greco, features Jessi Campbell as May and Andrew Pastides as Eddie, with Patrick Russell as Martin and Rod Gnapp as The Old Man. The original cast could scarcely have been any better.

Andrew Pastides brings Eddie that Sam Shepard vulnerable macho. He is good with a lasso rope  and apparently is irresistible to May, no matter how she tries to be rid of him. (We do wait for him to tie the rope around her.)

Jessi Campbell's May is tortured at the prospect of getting back together with Eddie, who has just shown up into her new life, and yet, as we see at the end, this is not an avoidable love affair.

Rod Gnapp plays himself, as Shepard pokes holes in the wall between actor and audience, and Patrick Russell makes us feel for the hometown boy who has no idea what he has stepped into. Both Eddie and May have memorable monologues towards the end, as we finally figure out who The Old Man is, along with the torment that haunts Eddie and May. These two monologues are Sam Shepard at his best.

People don't change. We are still Fools for Love.

RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division wishes to advise our readers never to mess with a bad-tempered woman driving a stretch Mercedes. We have to thank the never-seen Countess, without whose intervention the lighting guy wouldn't have had so much fun.

We award "Fool for Love" Four Stars. Cast, staging, direction and text deserve a star each. This is a rather pricey show, for the Magic, but it is worth every penny.

"Fool for Love"
Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Through Feb. 26

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"The Real Thing" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

The play is thirty five years old and has lost none of its wit. In these days of one act plays to help with limited audience attention spans, Tom Stoppard gives us more than two hours of repartee. Act Two alone is seventy five minutes long, which is fearsome to consider before the show starts, but it flows by neatly and seamlessly.

"The Real Thing" shows us a masterful writer at the peak of his talents and the new Aurora Theater production gives Director Timothy Near an excellent six-piece ensemble of actors to work with. The music is also a plus -- songs from the '70s fill the house and then are diminished onto someone's radio in a corner of the set. We know Sound Designer Cliff Carruthers did not come up with this idea but his execution adds immeasurably to our enjoyment of the show.

Our story belongs to Elijah Alexander, who plays Henry, a playwright known for his clever use of words. Henry's problem is the scenes he creates on stage end up following him into his real life. His primary love interest is Annie (Liz Sklar)...

...with whom Henry has taken up while married to Charlotte (Carrie Paff). At the time, Charlotte was married to Max (Seann Gallagher).

Then, there is Billy (Tommy Gorrebeeck), who is attracted to Annie, and vice-versa, and, ultimately we meet the Scots revolutionary Brodie (also played by Gorrebeeck). We love Brodie. We can imagine another show with Brodie as Henry and Henry as Brodie, as long as Stoppard would write it.

There are the usual twists and turns but in the end it comes down to love. More or less. An excellent production of a classic play with a strong ensemble. What's not to like?

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Real Thing" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The thing that stops us from granting a fourth star to a play that has earned a thousand stars in its time, is the writing of the characters who are not named Henry. Henry has all the pithy quotes -- "I don't think writers are sacred, but words are..." -- and it is he that wields the cricket bat. We come to see what he is looking for: the act of falling in love. As for the other characters, well, bollocks. They are on their own.

"The Real Thing"
The Aurora Theater
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley

Through March 5