Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A White Girl's Guide to International Terrorism ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

God help us if what is left of the American Dream is for the FBI to save us. Chelsea Marcantel's "A White Girl's Guide to International Terrorism" is a very good play, full of humor and understanding and with a standout ensemble cast. But we leave the theater feeling dismayed. If times are so tough, for so many people in our country, that becoming addicted to drugs or going to live in a theocracy in Syria sound preferable, then shouldn't we be concentrating on the reasons behind these desperate lives?

We love Isabel Langen as Blaze, who makes us understand her temptation, surrounded by addicted friends and no prospects for the future. We are frightened by Liz Sklar as Wafiya. We are comforted at first by Mohammed Shehata as Agent Salem. Then, in Act Two, the plot turns in a fascinating way we did not foresee. 

We also like Neiry Rojo as Blaze's best friend Rowena, and Davied Morales as Blaze's classmate and almost-boyfriend Gabe. Blaze's mother Kit is played by Arwen Anderson, the one character we wish could be developed a bit more. We want to know why this woman, who seems intelligent and intuitive, is as stuck in her tracks as everyone else in this town? We understand the overarching societal issues that Mercantel brushes against, the dying town and the industry that has disappeared, but why Kit? And why does she do what she does to Blaze? 

The videos produced by Blaze are brilliant. They feel real. The whole show does. For a first performance and a World Premiere, we are enthusiastic about this show. We expect to see it on the Main Stage in the near future.


The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "A White Girl's Guide to International Terrorism" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. The cast and direction by Morgan Green deserve one star each and the subject matter a third. A special Bangle of Praise for the way Blaze's videos are produced on stage. This is terrific staging that gives us a visual mirror into Blaze's heart.

"A White Girl's Guide to International Terrorism"
Creativity Theater
221 4th Street, San Francisco
Thurs, Fri, Sat Through March 2

Saturday, February 2, 2019

"Creditors" ☼ ☼ ☼

August Strindberg wrote "Creditors" in 1888. The new Aurora Theatre production written by David Greig and directed by Barbara Damashek works on many levels. We have old against young, strong versus weak, and woman versus man. The themes butt up against each other most in the role of Tecla, played with style by Rebecca Dines.

Tecla is married to Adolph (Joseph Patrick O'Malley), a weak and sickly artist. His wife is a flirt, and though quite liberated for the times, clearly looked down upon by the author who is well known for his misogyny. Tecla has written a novel in which her ex-husband Gustav (Jonathan Rhys Williams) is made out to be a fool. Enraged by her characterization of him, Gustav plots revenge against both Tecla and Adolph.

It is somewhat more difficult for a modern audience to understand why Adolph would fall for Gustav's specious lies, or to accept the plan the two men hatch to identify and punish Tecla's supposed unfaithfulness. Tecla's chief flaw appears to be she seems happy, a character trait apparently unknown by either of the two men.

The Title: "The Creditors," refers to the idea that "What you have is mine," that is, that no pleasure will last, that sooner or later you will have to pay for anything you love. The weak will be overcome by the strong. Women will remain inferior and men cruel and powerless. Not the kind of show you exit needing to see twice.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

 The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "Creditors" Three Stars. Some may find Strindberg's characterizations of women to be painful, and others may wish they could open up Adolph and insert a bit of spine. In the end, despite fine acting, the play that was undoubtedly felt to be cutting edge in 1888 feels somewhat less so in 2019.

Aurora Theater
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED Through March 3, 2019