Sunday, December 2, 2018

C.W. Nevius: "The Oakland Raiders, True Crime and Coming of Age in San Francisco" ☼ ☼

It's a convoluted title that may tell you everything you need to know -- that C. W. Nevius and director David Ford are fishing for a center to this show. Nevius, for years one of our favorite sports writers for the San Francisco Chronicle, is a new performer. He is engaging and likable, with an ear for dialogue and comedy. But we can't really tell you what the purpose of the show is, except to listen to a man tell a few enjoyable stories about the years he covered the Oakland Raiders, as well as a rather obscure sexual misconduct case against a basketball player with the University of San Francisco. The very best parts are Nevius's lookbacks on the Oakland Raiders he once knew, and what has happened to them as time passed. Nevius knows touching stories about these men, several of whom died quite young.

But if the center of this story is Nevius himself, he needs to make us care a little more. We get no insights into his upbringing or how or why he came to love sports, so we are not particularly involved with him as a sportswriting adult. His experiences are interesting to a local audience, and I am one of these who remembers with pleasure the Raiders' glory years, but the performer seems to have learned little from them except to always go for the scoop.

We love this advice, given by his editor: "Go the game, see what happens, and then write that." Every writer ought to pay attention to that one.

Our guess is Chuck Nevius is a really nice guy. He comes off that way. He can come to my house anytime to talk about the Raiders. But if he is going to have a solo show, he has to come up with a reason to be on stage, aside from talking about himself.


The San Francisco Theater Blog awards TWO STARS to C.W. Nevius: "The Oakland Raiders, True Crime and Coming of Age in San Francisco." It is a young show that needs time to mature. Whether or not the show is about the Oakland Raiders or the beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, we need to know more. And a shorter title, please.

"C.W. Nevius: "The Oakland Raiders, True Crime and Coming of Age in San Francisco"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Through Dec. 15
$20-$35 (sliding scale)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

John Fisher: A History of World War II: UNRATED

Unless you are Mel Brooks, it's hard to get laughs out of Nazis, but John Fisher tries. His manic one-man history of World War II from D-Day to the Fall of Berlin, as he falls to the ground shooting a pretend rifle and gets the audience to make machine gun sounds, and German soldier sounds, and bombs-exploding sounds, is funny and gay.  You will laugh, but you may have a problem with German soldiers being thought of as "hot," causing Fisher to hold his legs together as if he has to pee with, we suppose, desire. Perhaps we oldsters have stronger antipathy towards Nazi stormtroopers.

Not that the "great uniforms and monocle" joke doesn't work, once, but after the tenth time it started to feel kind of...weird. The guards at Auschwitz are not "hot." At least, not to this audience member.

John Fisher is a gifted physical comedian, as well as a student and encyclopedia of World War II. He has a great deal of fascinating information for us. Did you know the Russians raped their way into Berlin? Did you know how close the Germans came to winning the war at the end? Did you know Hitler was a vegetarian who didn't smoke or drink? All true. Now you know what to reply to your obnoxious friends who won't touch veal.

But we left the theater feeling we had missed the announcement that this is all high camp and everything is just a big joke. Maybe it is. Unless you miss the joke.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division feels a bit foolish and old fashioned, but we have chosen not to rate this show. John Fisher is a pro who knows how to work an audience. His show feels like a great party bit, but this is not a party everyone has been invited to. I'm afraid our invitation must have gotten lost, amidst all the confusion.

"John Fisher: A History of World War II"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia St., San Francisco
Thursdays and Saturdays through Dec. 15
$20-$35 Sliding Scale