Monday, December 21, 2015

"The Eddys: Our Top Theatre Productions, 2015, San Francisco Bay Area"


Theatre Eddys Presents
“The Eddys”
Our San Francisco Bay Area Top Theatre Productions, 2015”

Ed & Eddie (aka as "The Eddys") Announce Their 2015 Bests
Even for us, attending 144 live theatre and opera productions in 2015 has been a record, 131 for which a full review was posted on Theatre Eddys.  Of those 144, we rated 53 as “5 E” (our top rating), representing 21 different theatre companies.  This year, the most “5 E” ratings went to American Conservatory Theatre and TheatreWorks (5 each), followed closely by San Francisco Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Company (4 each).

Choosing “Top Lists of the Year” is made complicated by so many outstanding productions in a region blessed with so many phenomenal companies of all sizes (over 300 stages in the SF Bay Area).  Here is Theatre Eddys take on the best of the best for 2015:

Theatre Eddys Top 10 Plays in 2015, San Francisco Bay Area

1. Lake Effect, Rajiv Joseph.  TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
A winter storm rages outside; but inside a shuttered Indian restaurant, things have only started to heat up as the two grown-up children of the diner's owner gather to ponder the legacy of their recently deceased father.  The appearance of Dad's mysterious bookie (and possible best friend) only complicates their memories and confounds their assumptions about a man they thought they knew.

2.  Head of Passes, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
In anticipation of her birthday, Shelah’s family and friends gather at her home in the Head of Passes—the mysterious shifting marshlands at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  As the guests appear, so do ghosts from the past; and Shelah’s convictions about her life begin to dissolve, along with her home in the Louisiana rain.  Inspired by the book of Job.

3.  Eurydice, Sarah Ruhl, Shotgun Players
A retelling of the myth of Orpheus from the perspective of Eurydice, his wife.  In this adaption, Eurydice must choose between returning to earth with Orpheus or to stay in Hades with her father.

4.  Stage Kiss, Sarah Ruhl, San Francisco Playhouse
An ode to what happens when lovers share a stage kiss — or when actors share a real one.  When two actors with a history are thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama, they quickly lose touch with reality as the story onstage follows them offstage.

5.  Gruesome Playground Injuries, Rajiv Joseph, Made Up Theatre
An accident-prone dare devil and a corrosive masochist navigate friendship and love.  Doug and Kayleen meet in a school nurse's office, beginning a lifelong intimacy that is revealed through the physical and emotional injuries they sustain over 30 years.

6.  Tree, Julie Hebert, San Francisco Playhouse
A southern white woman shows up at the home of an African-American man in Chicago and claims to be his half-sister, impelling them to confront a shared past. In their search for the truth, they must navigate the fragmented memories of the man’s aged mother to discover where their roots intersect.

7.  Between Riverside and Crazy, Stephen Adly Guirgis, American Conservatory Theatre
A retired police officer faced with eviction is living with his recently paroled son, Junior.  They struggle to hold on to their rent-stabilized apartment on Riverside Drive while colliding with old wounds, sketchy new houseguests, a church lady, and city hall cops demanding an end to a disability lawsuit.

8.  The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie, Shotgun Players
In the midst of a terrible snowstorm, Mollie and Giles Ralston open Monkswell Manor, a remote guesthouse.  While they struggle to manage their first day of business, a policeman arrives to investigate a grisly murder.  Comedy and chaos ensue, and then – murder!  Who did it?

9.  How the World Began, Catherine Trieschmann, Custom Made Theatre Co.
A Manhattan woman travels to a rural town in Kansas recently devastated by a tornado to take a teaching job in a makeshift high school.  But when she makes an off-handed remark regarding the origins of life, she unleashes community outrage and the particular distress of a disturbed young boy.

10.  The Convert, Danai Gurira, Marin Theatre Company
Southern Africa. 1896.  Against her family’s wishes, a young Shona girl escapes a forced marriage arrangement by converting to Christianity and becoming servant and student to an African evangelist.  However, as anti-European sentiments rise among her people, she must face an impossible choice between colonial and ancestral ways of life.

Five Honorable Mention Plays in 2015 (in no particular order)

--> Our Town, Thornton Wilder, Shotgun Players
--> Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller, San Jose Stage Company
--> Handle with Care, Jason Odell Williams, (Hebrew by Charlotte Cohn), City Lights Theater Company
-->Hay Fever, Noël Coward, Stanford Repertory Theater
-->Fifth of July, Lanford Wilson, Aurora Theatre

Theatre Eddys Top 10 Musicals in 2015, San Francisco Bay Area

1.  Triangle, Curtis Moore, Thomas Mizer, & Joshua Scher, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
A gay, high-tech scientist learns that his New York lab was once the site of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and discovers his mysterious connection to several of its Jewish immigrant victims.  In this musical, parallel affairs unfold a century apart, interweaving two star-crossed couples willing to risk everything they have -- and believe -- for love.

2.  Fire on the Mountain, Randal Myler, Dan Wheetman, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
With relatively few spoken words but instead with three dozen songs and several score of projected, vintage photographs, Fire on the Mountain tells a moving, powerful story of the Appalachian coal miner.  The might of the media used in this timeline history that covers much of the twentieth century is felt in every minute of the ninety as large black-and-white, Dorthea-Lange-like images illustrate the lyrics being belted across the stage.

3.  Heathers, the Musical, Laurence O’Keefe, Kevin Murphy, Ray of Light Theatre
Based on 1988 cult film. Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful, teenage misfit hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High, the Heathers.  But before she can get comfortable, Veronica falls in love with the dangerously sexy new kid J.D.  When Heather Chandler kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and apologize, but J.D. has another plan for that bullet.

4.  Dogfight, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Peter Duchan, San Francisco Playhouse
Vietnam’s darker cousin to WWII’s joyous On the Town. Three young Marines troll the alleys and cafes of 1963 San Francisco to find the ugliest girl possible as a date in their last night before heading to Vietnam jungles for what they feebly hope will be a few months of testosterone adventures.  Each seeks to win a pot of cash contributed by fellow buddies who are rip-roaringly following a proud (and pathetic by our standards today) tradition of Marines on their last night before shipping off to war.

5.  Chicago, Fred Ebb, John Kander, Bob Fosse, Palo Alto Players
Musical set in Prohibition-era Chicago and based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal."

6.  Company, Stephen Sondheim, George Furth, San Francisco Playhouse
It’s today in Manhattan, and Robert is unable to make a commitment of his own as he makes the circuit of his married friends, alternately observing and participating in the ups and downs of their relationships.

7.  Lizzie, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt, Tim Maner, Ray of Light Theatre
In 1892, Lizzie Borden was the primary suspect for her father and stepmother’s brutal murder.  Though eventually acquitted, Lizzie became a tabloid sensation and the most controversial figure of her time.  Did she do it?  Four women and a driving rock score meld this infamous 19th century story with a modern-day twist.

8.  Choir Boy, Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Marin Theatre Company
An all-black prep school for boys is the setting for a play with music that provides sometimes direct, sometimes allusive commentary in a coming-of-age work that explores the tug between tradition and self-expression in young, African American men.  The effeminate Pharus wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school's legendary gospel choir.  Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key?

9.  Mighty Real, A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, Anthony Wayne, AnthonyKen LLC at Brava Theater Center
Musical concert that celebrates the life of the 1970's SF Disco Queen Sylvester. With songs like "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", "Can't Stop Dancing" and "You Are My Friend,” the show tells the life story of Sylvester through his music and his point of view.

10.  Jane Austen’s Emma, Paul Gordon, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Musical adapted from the novel by Jane Austen. The town's young and beautiful matchmaker is meddlesome in other's affairs and clueless about her own feelings.

Three Honorable Mention Plays in 2015 (in no particular order)

-->Candide, Leonard Bernstein, John Caird, Hugh Wheeler, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lamplighters Music Theatre
-->Ghost Quartet, Dave Malloy, Curran Theater
-->The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O'Brien, Ray of Light Theatre

Theatre Eddys Top 5 Solo Shows in 2015, San Francisco Bay Area

1.  RFK, Jack Holmes, San Jose Stage Company
Bobby Kennedy's words, struggles, and ideals come to life in this one-man tour de force of the late politician and committed advocate for civil rights, the poor, and racial minorities.

2.  Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce, Steve Cuiffo, Lenny Bruce, Curran Theater
One man show that reprises Bruce's Curran performance from 54 years ago.  His routines and style influenced George Carlin, Cheech & Chong, Dick Gregory, and others.  They also stretched new political, sexual, religious, and cultural boundaries into territories previously considered too taboo, vulgar, and obscene for the public's ears.

3.  Oh No There’s Men on the Land, Karen S. Ripley, The Marsh, Berkeley
Gay comedy pioneer Karen Ripley tells the stories of lesbian life in the '70s/early 80s in her solo show.

4.  Loveland, Ann Randolph, The Marsh
Franny Potts faces up to the loss of her mother while flying from LA to Ohio surrounded by strangers.

5.  The Jewelry Box, Brian Copeland, The Marsh
How will a 6-year-old Oakland boy be able to buy the "perfect" gift he's found in a White Front department store for his mother?

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