Theater

'Venus in Fur' electrifies at A.C.T.

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Good lord, this play is hot, hot, hot. Rave reviews of its run in New York last year -- mostly heralding the rise of Broadway newcomer Nina Arianda -- gave me pause. Could our own A.C.T. pull off this super-steamy, sometimes-harrowing, consistently enthralling sex comedy without Arianda's now-famous starpower?

No fear. Sensational actors Brenda Meaney and Henry Clarke stole the audience's breath away, when playwright David Ives' perverse 2010 take on novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's perverse 1870 masterpiece opened at A.C.T. last night. Prepare to be intellectually and emotionally (and even a bit physically) whipped, beaten, and thrilled into submission.

And yes, there will be a touch of Velvet Underground.

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Movers/Shakers: Two rare visits by European contemporary dance-makers this weekend

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Here are two very special opportunities to see (and, in at least one case, join in on) the work of some leading European contemporary dance/performance makers passing through town this weekend…

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Rocked worlds

The Bengsons take love, life, and music on the road with 'Hundred Days'

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THEATER

There are two sides to every road. But ask a long-haul trucker, a traveling salesman, or a pair of wandering minstrels like the Bengsons, and they'll remind you that those sides converge at the horizon line.Read more »

A feast for the nonsenses

Cutting Ball Theater's Ubu Roi frolics in kitchen sink surrealism

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi is probably better known for its riotous Parisian opening (back in 1896) than for the play itself. The profanity it leveled against the city's crème de la crème, beginning with its famous opening incantation, "Merdre!" — not exactly a word but dirty-sounding enough to precipitate a violent revolt long before the final curtain — broke open the doors of the WC on so-called polite society. As it turned out, no one was really keen or able to close them again.Read more »

Monologos de la Vagina finds new actress to replace controversial conservative

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Following national controversy over the resignation of a politically conservative actress from the local Spanish-language production of The Vagina Monologues, producer Eliana Lopez announced yesterday that the production has found a replacement.

Actress Alba Roversi, a veteran of the Spanish language Monologos de la Vagina, will take the place of Maria Conchita Alonso, whose departure from the play had Fox News crying foul over her being “forced out” for her conservative political views. 

Any chance to needle San Francisco, right? 

Roversi starred in over 20 Spanish language soap operas, though she may not have the same name recognition in the US as Alonso, whose filmography includes Predator 2 and The Running Man (with our former Governator). Roversi is in, and Alonso is out. Read more »

Expose yourself to art

Deborah Cullinan and Marc Bamuthi Joseph talk creative ecosystems and Young Jean Lee's 'Untitled Feminist Show'

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One of us

Emotional monstrosities animate 'Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness'

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Take away their unconventional looks and odd talents, and the eponymous carnival performers of Freaks — Tod Browning's classic carnie horror movie — were not so unusual. Ordinary folks, for the most part, with ordinary problems and everyday virtues. The title secretly pointed to the monstrous souls of their "normal-looking" but heartless colleagues, corrupt to the point of betrayal and murder.Read more »

The art of dialogue

Voices and impressions from Poland's Dialog Festival
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Maybe there's no better way to grasp your own time and place than by leaving it — in this case, trading San Francisco for Wroclaw, Poland, and Pacific Standard Time for a whiplashing case of jet lag. Wroclaw was home base for a little more than a week during the recent Dialog Festival (Oct. 11–18; dialogfestival.pl/en), which was in its seventh season as a major biennial international theater festival created and programmed by Krystyna Meissner, a force in Polish and European theater for decades.Read more »

Government smackdown

The Taming hits below the Beltway but stays shy of a knockout

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The premise of Bay Area playwright Lauren Gunderson's latest, The Taming (not to be confused with her other latest, I and You, running more or less simultaneously at Marin Theatre Company), felt riotously germane on opening night, less than a week into the recent shutdown of the federal government. But only at first.Read more »

The Performant: For Those Who Have Rocked, We Salute You

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Theater artists reflect on life on the road in this final dispatch from the 2013 fringe festival circuit.

One of the most interesting aspects of the North American fringe festival circuit is the way it makes touring with a piece of theater an accessible proposition to even typically penniless performers. It hearkens back to an era when dozens of theater companies sent themselves on cross-country tours in much the same manner as punk bands or circuses (the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Independent Eye among them), a rite of literal passage that seems quite out of reach for most theater-makers today. This means that despite its traditional, lottery-based programming, a penchant for kingmaking still pervades the Fringe, and certain prolific artists can become as rock stars, circumventing the lottery odds by booking themselves into unofficial venues as in Edinburgh, capturing oddience attention from year to year. Read more »