Return of the
by Richard Dodds
Now where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Ah, that's right, sitting in reasonable comfort in a hospital bed with laptop on tray table. A necessary but non-dire bit of surgery was not enough to stop one intrepid journalist from filing a story on time. As just when what would have been, I'm convinced, a wonderful interview with Scottish director John Tiffany (Black Watch) was beginning to materialize, a doctor and his attendants came bursting into the room. "Your blood levels are dropping!" the doctor exclaimed, with what seemed like a Chicken Little urgency. But his readings were right, and off I was launched into a magical mystery medical tour as my heretofore cast-iron corpus rebelled in unexpected ways.
When I was able to again pull out the laptop, I found that what felt like ordinary typing appeared on the screen as if a 3-year-old were banging on the keyboard. John Tiffany, alas, became the interview that got away. While the business of theater soldiered on without me, I learned that when they offer you headphones during an MRI, Judy Garland is not in their repertoire (lots of Frank Sinatra, though), that the apposing dramas of a series of roommates in optimistically named semi-private rooms was better than daytime television, and that a single dose of generic Ambien is billed at $40.
There were must-see productions that I didn't get to see, and thanks go to veteran scribe Erin Blackwell for her fresh and frank reviews that I both enjoyed and stylistically envied. And special thanks to mon cher editeur Roberto Friedman for tracking me down in the CPMC maze for a morale-boosting phone call.
This column marks the restart of my engines, as well as a level of locomotion that I am able to return to active theatergoing. San Francisco Playhouse's production of Camelot presents itself as first on this list, and while this particular musical may not necessarily be a first choice, a down and dirty production is promised as enticement. Director Bill English got permission to cut dialogue (hooray) and add two songs cut before the show opened on Broadway (hmm). Look for a review next week.
With this personal preamble at its conclusion, it is time to return to our regularly scheduled gathering of the news.
In so far as I was bemoaning the lack of Judy Garland at Davies (of all hospitals!), it is a pleasure to report that Connie Champagne will be back as said legend in a cabaret performance on July 28. An Evening with Judy Garland takes place at, and will benefit, the Boxcar Theatre, where Hedwig and the Angry Inch is now in its eighth month.
Champagne joined the cast of Hedwig in May as one of the eight performers sharing the title role (a multiphasic change sanctioned by creator John Cameron Mitchell, who went solo in the original production). Champagne will be joined onstage by Teresa Attridge and Erica Richardson, fellow Hedwigs, and will perform a special Judy version of the score's "Wig in a Box" on which she collaborated with Mitchell. Tickets are available at boxcartheatre.org.
Perils of Pauline
Many, many years ago, when I began playing at being a reviewer, a journalist-friend advised me to read Pauline Kael's film criticism. A few years later, his advice was to stop reading Pauline Kael's film criticism. Such were the powers of Kael's enchantment and alienation on readers. When asked why she had never written an autobiography, Kael replied, "I think I have."
The voice that Kael revealed in her vast body of work – will her alleged homophobia be acknowledged? – is being corralled into a one-woman show having performances on Aug. 5 and 6 at the Ashby Stage. Performed by Mary Baird and adapted and directed by Joe Christiano, Love in the Dark: Pauline Kael at the Movies is being presented by Shotgun Cabaret and First Person Singular. Tickets at shotgunplayers.org.
There are two very good reasons to visit the 2000 block of Berkeley's Addison Street in the coming days and weeks. The cheek-by-jowl Aurora and Berkeley Repertory theaters are, respectively, finishing an acclaimed run and beginning a starry hot-ticket production. Both plays happen to have been written by notorious shit-stirrers.
At Aurora, glowing reviews and positive word of mouth have led to an extension of Neil LaBute's This Is How It Goes, which must end its run on July 28. LaBute is the author of such button-pushing plays as Fat Pig, Reasons to Be Pretty, and In the Company of Men. In This Is How It Goes, LaBute slams his way into the racial divide. Tickets at auroratheatre.org.
Berkeley Rep has snagged a pre-Broadway engagement of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land with a cast guaranteed to turn heads – and sell tickets. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart play two literary doyens who may be jailer and captive or perhaps just old pals from college. This new relationship upsets two minions played by Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley. The run is set for Aug. 3-31, and at this point only season subscribers can score tickets. More info at berkeleyrep.org.