My Fair (and Desanitized) Lady
A couple of weeks ago, Backstage looked at three summer productions that offer stabbing (Marat/Sade), slashing (Sweeney Todd), and slicing (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Where, you might ask, are those musicals that once sent us back into the summer night with a buoyant step and a song to hum? We have one of those for you this week, the one with a heroine who wishes she could have danced all night, but this is San Francisco, where yin always needs its yang, and a few blocks away a new musical theater piece promises, in the first line of its press release, "dance numbers of disembowelment and incest." Not in three-four waltz time, presumably, but you never know.
Of course, the referenced waltz is from the score of My Fair Lady that SF Playhouse is presenting in its small downtown theater in a chamber-scaled version. The second production will be unknown to most readers, for not only does it emerge from Kinderdeutsch Projekts, a multi-nation troupe never before seen on the West Coast, it is also the world premiere for Arctic Hysteria, which is set in a kingdom of artificial snow and imagined Eskimos.
SF Playhouse, which often displays an offbeat bent veering from Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane to Tennessee Williams’ A Period of Adjustment, is now presenting an unconventional interpretation of a conventional musical. "By stripping the show to its core," reports SF Playhouse, "and casting much younger actors as Higgins and Pickering, as well as a street-tough Eliza, our production aims to stir more romantic heat, while desanitizing our misconceptions of what was a very gritty London of 1912."
Johnny Moreno and Monique Hafen are playing speech professor Harold Higgins and his protege Eliza Doolittle, with Charles Dean as Eliza’s father Alfred Doolittle, and Richard Frederick as Higgins’ cohort Col. Pickering. Bill English is directing the 11-member cast, which will be accompanied by two pianos as it sings the Lerner and Loewe score. Following its July 14 opening, the production will continue through Sept. 29. Tickets at www.sfplayhouse.org.
Arctic Hysteria, running July 26-Aug. 4 at Bindlestiff Studio, is named for a condition associated with the northernmost Inuit societies. In the Kinderdeutsch production, an aging warrior queen goes mad as her daughters renounce their inheritance of the polar realm. The Berlin-based company uses comedy, horror, movement, sound, and song to tell the story bilingually in English and German. Or as Kinderdeutsch describes it: "Part musical, part B-grade incest porn, part disastrous sparkle-pop music video."
San Francisco writer Abi Basch has provided the text for her fourth collaboration with Kinderdeutsch. The international creative team also includes director Else Marie Laukvik (Oslo), set designer Sue Rees (London), costume designer Irina Kruzhilina (Moscow), and composer Paula Matthusen (New York). The cast includes Thorsten Bihegue and Stefanie Fielder from Berlin, Lindsey Murray from London, and San Francisco’s Molly Shaiken.
SF’s Climate Theater helped develop Arctic Hysteria in 2010, and its official debut at Bindlestiff is being produced locally by SNAP (Some New Arts Project). More info and tickets are available at www.kinderdeutsch.org.
Since its creation in 1976, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival has been the cornerstone program of the Playwrights Foundation. The 35th annual festival will feature six new plays, chosen from more than 500 submissions, which will have staged readings July 20-29 at Thick House Theater. The festival is not intentionally constructed around a theme, but according to Artistic Director Amy Mueller, a theme has emerged from the selections. "It’s about a shift in consciousness in our culture, in every sector, as a result of advanced technology," she said.
The playwrights and their plays are: Gordon Dahlquist’s Tea Party, a play about American politics in the near future; Aditi Kapil’s Brahman/i, the comically rendered tale of an intersex teen untethered to a gender or a culture; George Brant’s Grounded, a look at a wife and mother who is also a pilot assigned to the Air Force’s drone program; Aaron Loeb’s Ideation, a play about management consultants pulled into a mysterious security deal of unthinkable dimensions; Lauren Yee’s Samsara, which follows the consequences of surrogate parenthood; and Christopher Chen’s The Hundred Hours Project, a meta-theatrical play about the making of a play about Mao Zedong.
Each play will have two performances over the course of the festival. A full schedule is available at www.playwrightsfoundation.org.
It’s 1956, and the mission of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein is so clandestine that not even all its members realize they belong to a lesbian organization. That’s the setup for Five Lesbians Eating Quiche, having its West Coast premiere at the Phoenix Theatre after a 2010 debut at a sketch fest that led to a popular full production at Chicago’s New Colony Theater.
Authors Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder are artistic directors at New Colony, and Jennifer Welch is directing the comedy’s SF debut under the aegis of Tides Theatre. Larissa Archer, Caitlin Evenson, Susan Shay, Sophia LaPaglia, and Karina Wolf play the title characters, who must deal with the Red Scare and H-bomb fears in addition to quiches and queer longings. Five Lesbians will run through July 28. Tickets available at www.tidestheatre.org.