Choralis Review in SFCV

The Choralis concert I mentioned earlier got a great review in SFCV!

Choralis’ balances, musicality of phrasing, and dulcet timbers were first-rate under the experienced Richard Sparks. Sparks is an American who has made a distinguished career, largely in Canada, Seattle, and Sweden. Both in terms of programming and directing, I found his contribution most impressive. It all amounted to a memorable concert experience.

My reaudition is on Tuesday, so we’ll see how it goes. The next concert will be the Victoria and Howells Requiems. Requia? Requii?

Choralis Debut Concert

This is the last concert I have lined up for a little while, and it’s with an outstanding group of singers. Of course, most people who read this blog and could go have already been spammed by me, but linking helps with choralissf.org’s page rank, right?

Choralis Photo

From Renaissance to Romantic to Recent

Saturday, June 2, 2007 -8pm
Trinity Episcopal Church
1668 Bush St, San Francisco

Choralis, the Bay Area’s newest vocal ensemble, will make its debut in San Francisco performing a selection of a capella choral works for chamber choir. Conductor Richard Sparks will lead the ensemble through both beloved and commanding works of Tallis, Lotti, Kuhnau, Rheinberger, Thompson, Lauridsen, Mäntyjärvi, and others.

Admission: suggested $10 donation

To learn more or to reserve seating, visit the Choralis website or e-mail choralissf@gmail.com.

Rebekah Wu, Manager – 415-439-4498

Blood Wedding

(by Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Evren Odcikin, at Shotgun) Blood Wedding is one of those plays I always meant to read but never did, so I was glad of the opportunity to see it staged at Shotgun. The aesthetic of this production was flamenco, and scenes were started with a stomp of the foot, chairs were slammed on the ground, and the actors tried to conjure up a feeling of duende to heighten the tension of the piece. Unfortunately, it only worked half the time, and I felt that the first act, whose dialogue is less lyrical, was a little overdone. Actually, the first act reminded me of Charles Mee in a strange way — the lines were broken down and the interactions intense and choreographed — distilled, if you like. Lorca’s poetry came out more strongly in the second act, where I thought the evocation of a haunted and surreal nightscape struck the right balance. As usual, Shotgun’s stuff is worth seeing, and the play continues through this weekend. I’m glad I got a chance to see it, and maybe now I’ll go read Bernarda Alba or something.

Blue Door

(by Tanya Barfield, directed by Delroy Lindo, at The Berkeley Rep). The Berkeley Rep’s latest play investigates the notion of African-American identity and history through one night of memories in the life of Lewis, an African-American professor of the philosophy of mathematics. His white wife has just divorced him and his father has died the year before, and he is sort of falling apart. Lewis’s meditation is interrupted by his ancestors, from Simon, the slave who became free, through his own father, and has to come to grips with his own family’s history and how his own struggle to be an academic success has been shaped by his own upbringing.

This is a play worth seeing, and is definitely not the bildungsroman that Passing Strange was. The writing is at times too obvious, and the billing as a “play with music” feels inaccurate compared to other “plays with music” that I have seen. Lewis’s research is on questions of causality and how time is represented mathematically, which may or may not be something that real math philosophers deal with, and is of course a convenient metaphor on which to bounce the story of the play. What really shines out are the performances, which salvaged any unevenness in the writing for me. David Fonteno and Teagle F. Bougere are simply electric together.

On plastic bags

San Francisco’s recent ban on plastic bags has been widely reported, but what surprised me is that The Economist is wholly supportive of it. Their reportage pointed out something which hasn’t appeared anywhere else that I’ve seen — similar bans have been established “in Rwanda, Bhutan, Bangladesh…, South Africa…, and Mumbai.”

I’m amazed at the corn-starch plates and forks, and biodegradeable bags are a great step too, provided that the energy cost in making them is not too excessive. But it’s hard to find real data on that. Until then, count me in for the ban, and I hope other cities follow suit.

it’s cold outside

The recent “cold snap” has caused Californians to run around like the sky is falling down. No more Birkenstocks and sarongs for you, hippies! Then again, I never imagined that in the Bay Area I’d have to sit in my car and wait for the windshields to defrost. Maybe I should invest in an ice-scraper.

On a more somber note, the cold introduces significant hardships on the homeless population here — shelters are always overcrowded. I used to donate my old clothes to Out Of The Closet, but I think I’m going to start taking them to shelters and other places that provide services — especially the warmer items and blankets, etc.

All Wear Bowlers

I saw All Wear Bowlersa at the Berkeley Rep on opening night. It was one of the most entertatining pieces of comedy I’ve seen in a while. The productions I saw earlier this semester (Lorin, Blood in the Brain, and Passing Strange) were good too, but I Bowlers really hit the spot for me in my stressful end of semester dance.

The play is of a piece with Beckett — two hapless fellows somehow get trapped on stage. What’s different is that these two actors, Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford, are incredibly skilled physical comedians. Dressed in vaudevillian baggy pants, vests, and coats, the pair clown their way around, messing with the audience (note : do not get seats in the main level, house left corner), and most of all trying to escape. There are wonderful conceits in the play — a silent film rolls and they duck behind the screen and into the film (the mind boggles at the sense of timing), interruptions from the soundtrack, and so on. The piece reminds me a bit of one of my all-time favorite films growing up : Bill Irwin in The Regard of Flight. It has some of the same sensibilities, although Irwin was trying to say more about theater in an overt way, whereas in Bowlers you feel like you’re watching a kind of aquarium show.

I don’t have too many intelligent things to say, except that it’s damn entertaining and its going on tour I think, so if it comes by your neck of the woods, definitely see it.

Hamlet : Blood In The Brain

I got a chance to see the new Naomi Iizuka play, Hamlet: Blood in the Brain at Intersection for the Arts (15th and Valencia). The production is a collaboration between Iizuka, Intersection, Campo Santo, and CalShakes, and took about 5 years of workshops and fora to come to its current form. The nice thing about going to Campo Santo productions is that they are really about process and it shows. This play is a recasting of the Hamlet story in a 1980’s Oakland devastated by the internecine conflicts between rival drug-dealers. In this story “H” (all characters are initials) stands in the shadow of his father, who was a “legend” and who dealt drugs all across Oakland. Rather than coming back from University, he comes back from the penitentiary and has to cope with the demands of his “uncle” C, who has taken over the business, has married H’s mother G, and who has Big Plans to expand his operation. The gangsta mythos and drama of the street struggle is an appropriate fit for the largeness of Shakespeare’s story, but Iizuka doesn’t really romanticize it. We are very much inside H’s mind the entire time, from his first line “the pounding… of a BASS” to the end, in which the poisoned chalice is done away with and instead we have a real Mexican standoff.

The play is another must-see. Like Love is a Dream House in Lorin, the play deals with local issues and problems, but the focus here is on the dissection of H’s turmoil. He is well and truly stuck here, as opposed to the kind of angsty playboy you see in some productions. To a degree he brings it on himself, but when you see C plans to have L kill H at a club in Oakland you understand the degree to which he is ensnared by business and blood and family and pride and honor. The feeling in intensified by the Chorus, which appears in all the club scenes, taunts H about his own inadequacies. We see it also when H meets L’s sister O near Lake Merritt and tells her that he wants to take her far away but in a later scene when she gets in his car he is paralyzed and cannot leave. Those who want a scene-by-scene adaptation should stay away. It’s more the Iizuka has taken Hamlet, knocked out everything but some posts, sifted through the detritus to find some nuggets, and then found a story in which those can be strategically placed. It’s in those changes that the indictment of the culture itself comes. There’s no reason for O to drown herself here — far better to have her killed in a driveby orchestrated by L himself, who is supposed to take out H.

As with every Campo Santo productions, the performances are huge and powerful. Sean San Jose as H, Donald E. Lacy Jr. as C, and Tommy Shepherd as L were particularly good, I thought, but Margo Hall as G, Ryan Peters as O, and Ricky Marshall as H’s father were also excellent. The play’s been extended and tickets can be reserved in advance at Intersection.

Love is a Dream House in Lorin

Last night I saw the Shotgun Players new production, Love is a Dream House in Lorin, by Marcus Gardley. It is an amazing piece of community-generated theater. The production is important to see, especially if you don’t usually go to theater, because it can turn your whole view of the possibilities of theater as a tool for dialogue within the community. Lorin was the name of a town that was annexed by Berkeley in the early 1900’s. It goes from Dwight to Alcatraz, Sacramento to Telegraph. The neighborhood was one of the only places people of color were allowed to own property — as such this area of South Berkeley developed a complex multiracial composition and was one of the first neighborhoods to voluntarily desegregate its schools. As a student, I am far too ignorant of the environment surrounding where I study — Berkeley is a temporary stopping place for me on my road through life, but this neighborhood, in and around which I have lived my entire time, has a complex history that is not at all apparent from its modern-day incarnation as the ‘hood.

The play is centered around a house in the Lorin district and its history. The play’s characters, residents of the Lorin District, are all named after streets in the neighborhood. The story starts with the house being bought by Russell and Adeline Wheeler, a biracial couple ready to start a family in the early ’80s. As we follow their story the history is revealed, from the original Ohlone inhabitants of the area through the building of the first Victorian homes, the internment of the Japanese-Americans who lived there, the black families who made their homes their and on through to Vietnam. The narrative is not linear — although the play is grounded in Adeline’s experience, it is not merely a story being told to her. Each stage of the story is paced differently — the heterogeneity keeps the play breathing and unpredictable. Aaron Davidman has created a physical language for the piece using recurrent physical patterns and motifs that helped the stories maintain their individual consistency while drawing parallels between the different residents of the house (as when a couple in love dances in the living room). The overall effect is hauntingly beautiful but not sentimental. Always looming over the production is the current situation of the neighborhood — drive-by shootings, gang problems, and drug abuse. The play reminds us that everyone who lives here has a story to tell.

I could go on rambling about the play and spoil details of the production but I won’t. If you are in the area, you have to see this play — it is probably the most important piece of theater I’ve seen in years.