Monday, October 3, 2011

Trodding the Boards in October

There are three stage performances I want to see in October.

I am a season ticket subscriber to American Conservatory Theater. Their first production of the season is Once in a Lifetime by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. The play, which premiered in 1930, is a comedy about the transition from silent films to talkies. ACT has partnered with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival to present screenings of short silent films before select Friday night performances (October 7 and 14). The performances are at the Geary Theater at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco.


Across town, a more modest theater company is presenting works by the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller. Thrillpeddlers is presenting their annual Shocktoberfest production for the 12th year in a row. This year's theme is "Fear Over Frisco." Muller penned the three short plays being performed and directs two of them.

If you are unfamiliar with Thrillpeddlers, it is a troupe which performs Grand Guignol plays. What is Grand Guignol? This website should help.

As used today, the term 'Grand Guignol' (pronounced Grahn Geen-yol') refers to any dramatic entertainment that deals with macabre subject matter and features “over-the-top” graphic violence. It is derived from Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, the name of the Parisian theatre that horrified audiences for over sixty years.

The three plays being performed are:

The Grand Inquisitor - an odd young woman with a cache of used books comes calling on an elderly recluse that she believes is the widow of San Francisco’s most notorious serial killer. Twenty real-time minutes culminate in an unexpected and shocking climax.

An Obvious Explanation - a daring heist goes awry when the crook who stashed the loot suffers amnesia. An ambitious doctor intends to solve the problem with her untested “memory” serum. The results are more dramatic than she expected – which is not a good thing.

The Drug - a promising young deputy DA’s efforts to crack the case of a celebrated artist’s disfigurement are thwarted – by the prosecutor’s own desire for the prime suspect. RenĂ© Berton’s classic two-act Grand Guignol, originally set in Saigon, is transposed and adapted by Muller to 1929 San Francisco.

The Grand Inquisitor is based on a short film Muller made in 2008 with Marsha Hunt. He premiered it at the 2009 Noir City, I believe.

The performances will be Thursday, Friday ans Saturdays at 8 PM through November 19. Thrillpeddlers perform at the Hypnodrome at 575 10th Street in San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased on Brown Paper Tickets.


Across the bay at the Berkeley Rep, Rita Moreno is performing a one-woman show where she "recounts her improbable life in an irreverent and entertaining new show that features a lively band and two expert dancers." If I haven't mentioned it, I'm a Rita Moreno fan. The show is titled Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup.

Most weeks (but not this week) until November 6, the performances are Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets can be purchased on the Berkeley Rep website.

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