The world's a stage: curtain up for Fall Arts theater

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022
Share this Post:
Jack (Joey Alvarado) and Norman (Nick Trengove) in 'Aunt Jack' at New Conservatory Theatre Center (photo: Lois Tema); 'Passengers' by The 7 Fingers at A.C.T.'s Geary Theatre (photo: Alexandre Galliez); Kat Evasco's "Mommy Queerest" at Brava's With You Festival.<br>
Jack (Joey Alvarado) and Norman (Nick Trengove) in 'Aunt Jack' at New Conservatory Theatre Center (photo: Lois Tema); 'Passengers' by The 7 Fingers at A.C.T.'s Geary Theatre (photo: Alexandre Galliez); Kat Evasco's "Mommy Queerest" at Brava's With You Festival.

For the first time in three years, the Bay Area is welcoming a full-fledged fall theater season, with a parade of opening nights that starts next week and marches all the way into December at a head-spinning pace. Here, to whet your appetite and encourage you to spend freely at your friendly neighborhood non-profit box offices, is just a sampling of quirky, queer and curious productions that are waiting in the wings.

César Cadabes's "Not My First Pandemic" at Brava's With You Festival  

Kinky Boots @ Victoria Theatre
Ray of Light Theatre's first post-pandemic production may have a bit less edge than gleefully transgressive past fare like "The Rocky Horror Show," "American Psycho" and "Carrie," but it's hard to argue with the gender-queer mass appeal of "Kinky Boots," with its Cyndi Lauper score and book by Harvey Fierstein. Stepping into the towering heels of drag queen Lola for his big break is Marshall Forte, a Gay Men's Chorus member who works at United Airlines.
$25-$70. Sept. 9-Oct. 1. 2961 16th St.

Aunt Jack @ New Conservatory Theatre Center
A modern family begets a modern generation gap in "Aunt Jack," the comedic drama that opens New Conservatory Theatre Center's intriguing seven-show season. At the center of Nora Bridgid Monahan's play is twentysomething Norman, who was raised by two gay men —a starchy activist and a drag performer— and his lesbian biological mother.

When he breaks up with his long-term boyfriend and introduces his parents to a new partner, feathers are ruffled. Though the older characters fancy themselves proudly progressive, they are utterly flummoxed by millennial perspectives on gender and sexuality. Expect a fair amount of campy cage aux folderol along with some winning insights.
$20-$37. Sept. 16-Oct. 16. 25 Van Ness Ave.

With You Festival @ Brava Theatre
This month-long series of three solo shows by queer writer/performers is curated by Brava Theater artist-in-residence Kat Evasco and includes her own "Mommy Queerest." Co-written with John Caldon, the autobiographical show finds the Filipina actress and stand-up comedian recounting her teenage realization that not only was she a lesbian, but that her mother was too.
In "Not My First Pandemic," storyteller César Cadabes explores connections gay mens' experience and resilience over the course of two contagions, pondering over the fact that a COVID vaccine was developed in record time, while there is no AIDS vaccine four decades after the first reported cases.

Finally, in "Prieto," Yosimar Reyes takes audience members on a rollicking trip through his childhood years growing up gay in East San Jose. Presenting the world through the eyes of an effeminate eight-year-old, Reyes shows how imagination, education and a love of music helped him transcend poverty and discrimination.
$25-$40. Sept 8-Oct. 1. 2781 24th St.

Albert Hodge in 'Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812' photo: Benjamin Krantz  

The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera @ Z Space
After four years in development, this San Francisco-based musical will have its world premiere production at Z Space. The show brings a rowdy original score and a comic book storytelling twist to the 1966 Compton Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin and the beginning of the modern transgender rights movement. The book is by Adrienne Price, who co-wrote the songs with Matt Fukul Grandy and Jeanine Adkisson.
Free-$50 (sliding scale). Oct. 13-Nov. 5. 450 Florida St.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 @ Shotgun Players
What a thrill that 2017's 12-time Tony nominee will make its West Coast debut at Berkeley's small but mighty Shotgun Players. Recently, Bay Area theatergoers got a taste of writer/composer Dave Malloy's singular adventurousness in last year's Berkeley Rep production of "Octet," his a cappella-scored rendering of an Internet addicts' support group. But Malloy's relationship with Shotgun is long and strong. The company mounted the first-ever productions of his "Beowulf" and "Beardo" (A Rasputin musical!) in 2008 and 2011 respectively.

Like those prior shows, NP&TGC puts a creative spin on literature and history. In this case, Malloy has adapted a section of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" into a cheeky pop opera that The New York Times called "The best new musical to open on Broadway since Hamilton." Shotgun productions consistently feature some of the region's most ingenious set designs, so it's all the more exciting to learn that their small performance space will be radically reconfigured for this production.
$8-$62. Nov. 5-Dec. 30. Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley.

Passengers @ American Conservatory Theater
The venerable A.C.T., which last year ventured into hip-hop with "Freestyle Love Supreme," again loosens its buttons to present "Passengers" a narrative nouveau cirque production by the Montreal-based troupe, 7 Fingers, which also produces "Dear San Francisco," the acrobatic cabaret which continues its open-ended run Club Fugazi in North Beach.

Set on a moving train, "Passengers" introduces eight characters who discover curious connections among their lives as they hurtle forward through the dark. Their musings and reveries are expressed through elegantly choreographed feats of strength and agility that coalesce into something closer to poetry than bragadocious derring-do.
$25-$110. Sept. 15-Oct. 9. 415 Geary St.

Indecent @ San Francisco Playhouse
As a follow up to its smashing revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" (continuing through September 10), the San Francisco Playhouse turns to another complex, thought-provoking play about a play: Paula Vogel's Tony-winning "Indecent." The show is a fictionalized history of "The God of Vengeance," a play written in Yiddish in 1906 about the love affair between a prostitute and her brothel owner's daughter.

Malka Wallick and Rivka Borek in 'Indecent' at San Francisco Playhouse. photo: Jessica Palopoli  

When it was eventually produced on Broadway in 1923, the entire cast was arrested for obscenity. Later, it was briefly revived in Nazi-occupied Poland. Homophobia, anti-semitism and artistic compromise are among the interwoven themes in this decades-spanning epic that remarkably also incorporates generous amounts of humor and music.
$30-$100. Sept. 22-Nov. 5. 450 Post St.

Lear @ Cal Shakes
Dunsinane @ Marin Theater Company

The Bard inspires endless invention and this September brings two particularly intriguing new twists on the Shakespeare canon: First, Cal Shakes returns to its bucolic outdoor amphitheater with "Lear," a modern verse adaptation by Marcus Gardley, whose "black odyssey" here was a spectacularly entertaining success. The cast includes Bay Area MVPs Sam Jackson and Jomar Tagatac, the script is set in the Fillmore and the action will be underscored by live jazz.
$30-$70. Sept. 7-Oct. 2. Bruns Amphitheater, Orinda.

Marcus Gardley's Lear at Cal Shakes in Orinda  

At the Marin Theatre Company, "Macbeth" gets a sequel in "Dunsinane." In David Greig's imaginative political history play, a widowed but ever-conniving Lady M (here called Gruach) is positioning her teenage son by a former marriage as rightful heir to the throne.
$43.50-$65.50. Sept. 22-Oct.16.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.