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It's London, 1833. No black man has ever starred on a British stage, not even as Othello, until tonight. It's not hard to imagine the audience's shock when Ira Aldridge, a young black American, takes the stage unexpectedly. In the stirring, endlessly fascinating play Red Velvet, Aldridge breaks more than the color barrier as he battles the entrenched social and theatrical norms of his day. After his performance, he goes on to become a living legend, lauded from the footlights of Stratford to the halls of Saint Petersburg. See the highly praised, fiercely funny drama at the San Francisco Playhouse.
Playwright John Guare examines the threads of chance that link one person to another -- and the consequences of those random connections -- in his fast-paced and affecting drama Six Degrees of Separation, now presented at San Francisco's Custom Made Theatre. Inspired by the story of a real-life con artist, the play follows a young African-American man who insinuates himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple by claiming that he is the son of actor Sidney Poitier. In addition to a successful Broadway run, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play was adapted into a 1993 film starring Will Smith, Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland.
Abominable tells the story of Beverly Onion, the world's loneliest mortician's assistant (and Star Wars fan), who finds herself the subject of a wager between the forces of Fate and Luck. Over the course of her hero's journey -- from the basement of Hortaman's Funeral Home to a Star Wars convention to the mountains of Tibet -- Beverly tries to reclaim control over her life and seeks to understand her deep connection to the mythical Abominable Snowman. The wildly creative Abominable or The Misappropriation of Beverly Onion by Forces Beyond Her Control, by playwright Katie May (Manic Pixie Dream Girl), unfolds onstage at San Francisco's Thick House.
This poetic drama by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz is set in Florida circa 1929 in rundown confines of a Cuban-American cigar factory, where cigars are still rolled by hand and well-dressed "lectors" are employed to read to laborers while they toil. In Anna in the Tropics, a lector arrives straight off the boat from Cuba, and choice of literature, Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina, unwittingly stirs the dreams and emotions of his avid listeners, leading to a real-world explosion of passion that changes the lives of all involved. See this captivating 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner in drama when Anna in the Tropics comes to the Barn Theatre in Ross.
The funny and frank Book of Days scratches through the surface of idyllic Middle America as it relates the gripping tale of a small-town murder. Set in the fictional town of Dublin, Missouri, the riveting drama follows plucky protagonist Ruth Hoch as she battles petty jealousies, hypocrisies, greed and lies in her quest to root out the truth behind the violent death of a local cheese factory owner. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson, Book of Days unfolds like a powerful page-turner in a new production at Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.
C.S. Lewis is among the most important writers of his generation, and in the new one-man play C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert, you can witness his storied transition from atheism to Christianity. The fascinating journey, adapted from Lewis' own thoughts and writings on the experience, is brought to life by actor Max McLean, who portrays the Chronicles of Narnia writer as he endures the death of his mother, works through his complicated relationship with his father and walks the path that led him from being a devout atheist to becoming the most influential Christian intellectual of his day. Whatever your own beliefs, C.S. Lewis Onstage is a moving look at a truly historic artist.
Set in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, City of Angels tells the story of a novelist struggling to turn his hard-boiled detective novel into a movie. Weaving together the novelist's actual life with the story of his fictional P.I. hero, the San Francisco Playhouse's production is a stylish nod to the golden age of Hollywood and film noir, where the colorful real world collides with the black-and-white "reel" world. The winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this show was co-written by Broadway legend Cy Coleman and M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart.
Based on one of Hans Christian Anderson's most beloved stories and the classic animated film, Disney's The Little Mermaid is truly a love story for the ages. In a magical kingdom fathoms below the waves, we meet Ariel, a little mermaid who's tired of flipping her fins in her aquatic kingdom. She dreams to be part of the fascinating world on dry land and will go to great lengths to get there -- like trading in her tail for human legs. Take an enchanting trip under the sea with everyone's favorite mermaid princess and her crabby sidekick Sebastian, as they battle the evil sea witch Ursula and win the heart of the human prince Eric. With music by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken, this Berkley Playhouse production of the fishy fable at the Julia Morgan Theater will capture your heart with its irresistible songs including "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl" and "Part of Your World."
A captivating mix of Freud, Alice in Wonderland and playwright August Strindberg's own personal symbolism, A Dream Play is a mesmerizing journey into the mind. Agnes, a dying woman, dreams she is the daughter of the Hindu god Indra, who comes to Earth to better understand the sufferings and cruelties of mankind. As her dream journey plays out, symbols rule, with settings and characters suddenly shifting, revealing inner conflict and making for a visual theatrical feast. A departure from Strindberg's earlier realist works like The Father and Miss Julie, A Dream Play laid the groundwork for the expressionist and surrealist movements to come. Don't miss The Cutting Ball Theater's production of this landmark work at EXIT on Taylor in San Francisco.
For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday is Sarah Ruhl's fanciful and moving look at growing up versus growing old within a family. In the wake of their father's death, five siblings are driven to reconnect with childhood dreams and confront the inevitability of the passage of time. Acclaimed British director Les Waters helms and Obie-winning Bay Area actress Kathleen Chalfant stars in this poignant exploration of adulthood. Adored for such productions as Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Tony-nominated playwright Ruhl now brings her tender new tale to Roda Theatre at Berkeley Rep for its West Coast premiere.
In 1985, then-president Ronald Reagan made a controversial visit to a Nazi cemetery in the German town of Bitburg to commemorate the end of World War II 40 years earlier. The visit caused widespread furor around the world, but The Gathering zeroes in on the furor those actions caused within one family, almost tearing them apart at the seams. The task of bridging longstanding generational conflicts and preserving the family unity is left to young Michael, on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah. The Gathering was first produced off-Broadway starring Theodor Bikel and Jesse Eisenberg, and opened on Broadway in 2001, starring Hal Linden. See it now at Royce Gallery in San Francisco.
In this taut, twisty -- and timely -- thriller by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar, a successful American investment banker named Nick finds himself in the clutches of a militant Islamic group in Pakistan, who're demanding $10 million for his release. But when the deal to free him suddenly falls through, Nick's forced to try to raise the money on his own. His subsequent stock-market wheeling and dealing -- and eye-opening lessons on the financial markets -- begin to sink in for his eager-to-learn captors, with truly terrifying results. Akhtar, author of the acclaimed novel American Dervish, won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Disgraced. See this up-to-the-moment thriller in production by the Marin Theatre Company.
A boisterous and vibrant portrait of love in a nontraditional family, La Cage Aux Folles has been one of Broadway's biggest hits for more than 30 years, earning nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Revival. Starring Broadway's William Thomas Evans, this heart-warming musical comedy invites you into the lives of Georges and his lover Albin, who plays female impersonator Zaza at the couple's popular St. Tropez drag nightclub. Problems arise when Georges' 25-year-old son comes home with his fiancée and her conservative parents. Watch as the flamboyant couple's family dynamic gets hilariously turned upside down. Written by Harvey Fierstein, the musical features Jerry Herman's beloved score -- including "The Best of Times is Now" and "I Am What I Am." Get in on the wig-flying fun as La Cage Aux Folles closes out the Bay Area Musicals season at San Francisco's Victoria Theatre.
Before it became a feature film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, The Last Five Years began as a stirring stage musical hailed by Time magazine. Told through inventive and heartrending songs, The Last Five Years is a two-person show that navigates the ins and outs -- the ups and downs -- of a marriage. Written by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade), this Drama Desk Award winner is the story of a couple's five-year relationship, from the thrilling pangs of new love to their painful final separation. There is, however, a twist: The man relives the relationship from beginning to end, while the woman relates their story in reverse. The two characters' emotional timelines converge only once -- at their wedding in the middle of the show. Fall in love all over again (or for the very first time) with this American Conservatory Theater production of The Last Five Years in San Francisco.
It's the ultimate feel-good show that has audiences coming back again and again to relive the thrill. Mamma Mia! tells the story of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads and an unforgettable trip down the aisle. Bride-to-be Sophie wants nothing more than to have her father at her wedding. But there's a small problem: She has no idea which of mom's three former boyfriends might be her dad. So Sophie invites them all to the festivities, surprising her fiercely independent mom. The show's tale of enduring love and friendship features the fabulous hit songs of ABBA, including "Dancing Queen," "S.O.S.," "The Winner Takes It All," "Take a Chance on Me" and many more. Don't miss Mamma Mia! at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.
Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley performs South African playwright Athol Fugard's critically-acclaimed drama "Master Harold" ... and the boys. An ordinary rainy afternoon in 1950s South Africa turns into a profound and life-changing experience for young, white Harold and the two black workers employed by his family. Alone and faced with the return of his alcoholic father, Harold must weigh his father's racist outlook against the respect he has for these men whom he considers his friends. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play in 1982, and initially banned in South Africa, "Master Harold" ... and the boys remains one of the most powerful coming-of-age plays ever written.
Motown the Musical thrilled audiences on Broadway, and now the show's national tour is making its way to San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring classic songs from Motown's heyday, the musical tells the story of Berry Gordy's journey from a featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and other musical icons. The timeless Motown sound broke through barriers and helped get everyone moving to the same beat. Experience the story behind the music in this smash hit featuring songs like "My Girl," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" and many more.
Mischief and merriment await in the original battle of the sexes, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. This witty romantic comedy shows how love brings out the best and worst in all of us, and now it gets some surprising new twists thanks to House of Cards writer Kenneth Lin and director Jackson Gay. Passionate and blindingly funny, Much Ado About Nothing is filled with some of the most brilliant comedic repartee ever written. See this California Shakespeare Theater production of the timeless romantic comedy under the stars at Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda.
Barbra Streisand starred in it, Vincente Minnelli directed it, Alan Jay Lerner wrote it: Few musicals have a more spectacular pedigree than On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. And yet this Tony-nominated classic, praised by The New York Times for its "lushly melodic score," is rarely staged today. So don't miss your chance to see New Conservatory Theatre Center's whimsical reimagining of this Broadway favorite about hypnosis, gay florists with commitment issues, love triangles and past lives. Prepare to be astounded as artistic director Ed Decker directs the show's West Coast premiere featuring a new book by Peter Parnell (NBC's The West Wing, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
She was just a small-town girl living in a lonely world ... until she took a journey to the Sunset Strip in 1987 and met a boy from Detroit who shared her same dreams of making it big and falling in love. The Tony-nominated Broadway musical Rock of Ages comes to Walnut Creek courtesy of Lesher Center for the Arts, bringing its raucous mix of 28 eyebrow-scorching tunes from Journey, Pat Benatar, Night Ranger, Styx, REO Speedwagon and many more. This hilarious, high-energy production features a talented cast that belts out classic '80s hits like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "I Wanna Know What Love Is," "Here I Go Again" and, of course, "Don't Stop Believing."
While all is fair in love and war, it wouldn't hurt to have some sure-fire guidelines on how to find the perfect match -- especially if you're three friends caught in a tangled love triangle in The Rules. When Ana, Julia and Mehr all fall for the same man, they are forced to examine the complicated rules of their friendship within a technologically-saturated society. Inspired by the dating guide The Rules: The Time Tested Secrets for Capturing The Heart of Mr. Right, this "late" coming of age story dives into the meaning of love and takes a close look at the endless pursuit of happy endings. Written by Dipika Guha, The Rules makes its world premiere at The Creativity Theater.
Take the normal play production process, put it on extra-fast-forward and you have Shotz, a theatrical pressure cooker that puts talented theater groups to the test. Six groups are given two weeks to write, two weeks to rehearse, two hours to get their tech in gear and one chance to perform an all-new short play. Each month has a different theme, and with each group offering their unique take on the month's theme, each performance is full of surprises. This is the latest in a long line of PianoFight's one-of-a-kind twists on improvisational theater. These improv impresarios are known for putting on ingeniously interactive entertainments that leave even the hardest-to-please San Francisco crowds entertained.
Everyone's favorite ogre is coming to Oakland in this musical adaptation of the beloved animated film. Throwing just about every fairy tale ever told into a blender, Shrek The Musical is a hip and funny mash-up that follows a very unlikely hero, a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess who's anything but a damsel in distress. Together they take on the short-tempered bad guy Lord Farquaad and save their fairy-tale kingdom. Adapted for the stage by David Lindsay-Abaire and featuring new songs by Jeanine Tesori, see the modern classic outside under the stars at Woodminster Amphitheater, located in beautiful Joaquin Miller Park.
Some plays can be summed up in an image, others a phrase, but only one masterpiece can be summarized with a scream: "Stelllaaa!!!" That masterpiece, of course, is none other than Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Set during a steamy summer in New Orleans' French Quarter, a vulnerable Blanche DuBois seeks shelter at the apartment of her pregnant sister, Stella, and Stella's husband, Stanley. Fragile Blanche and brutish, temperamental Stanley immediately clash, and tensions further escalate when the two are left alone together after Stella heads to the hospital to give birth. Experience this American classic now at San Francisco's Shelton Theater.
At five-foot-seven and 160 pounds, Edward "Chip" Fuller is hardly the poster boy for baseball's steroid era. But when the light-hitting shortstop turned drive-time sports radio host learns his name will appear on a list of players linked to performance enhancing drugs, Chip is forced to explain his choice to colleagues, his listeners and his family. In Value Over Replacement, he must choose between a bland public apology and a much more difficult confession. The truth is, if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't change a thing. Penned by award-winning SFSU grad Ruben Grijalva, this sports drama slides into San Francisco's Thick House.
Refusing to go quietly to a retirement home, aging but still feisty artist Alexandra has barricaded herself in her Brooklyn brownstone and booby-trapped it with enough homemade bombs to take out the neighborhood in The Velocity of Autumn. Alone and at odds with her family, Alexandra's defenses begin to crack when her long-absent son crawls in through her window to try to save her life as much as his own. TheatreWorks presents The Velocity of Autumn, a Tony-nominated Broadway sensation that reveals both the fragility and ferocity of life, at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
Queenie, a showgirl during the Jazz Age, has grown tired and resentful of her relationship with a clown named Burrs. To get back into the swing of things (and to get back at the violent Burrs), she decides to throw a party. But as their friends start to tumble in and the booze flows freely, the evening turns increasingly dark and decadent until ... a gun goes off. But who exactly has been shot? Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, I Am Harvey Milk) wrote the book, lyrics and pulse-racing music for this one-of-a-kind, award-winning show that captures the verve and violence of the Roaring '20s. Now, Ray of Light Theatre's production of The Wild Party roars across the stage of the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco.