Time is short for writing full reviews, but here are a few brief thoughts about some shows I saw last week, several of them quite delightful and recommended as well as some expectation management to help you decide when best to enjoy some of these shows.
The Smell of the Kill at City Lights is a dark (DARK!) comedy running 75 minutes and no intermission in the intimate but technically slick City Lights Theater. Three talented ladies share the stage (and three invisible but audible men too) and while all the characters will drive you crazy (intentionally so) there is some really fantastic, spot on comic timing happening on this stage. It’s enjoyable and fun, over the top in places and quite grounded in other and it clips along nicely. A solid 4 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a well suited play to the space that is as marvelously executed technically as it is creatively. The Smell of the Kill plays through February 23rd at City Light Stage Company
Rx – Love in the Time of Pharma is a delightfully neurotic comedy with thoughtful, compelling moments of genuine poignancy. I liked this script a lot and I like the performances of our leads even more. Aside from the chuckles that this play elicited from me easily and consistently, there is a layer of commentary and heart to this play that while dark in places, also bathes in hope and acceptance. Not flawless, but really a different and fun piece, charmingly acted in particular by our female lead. Happy to bestow 4 1/2 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a timely and smile worthy piece. Rx – Love in the Time of Pharma plays through February 9th at the Dragon Theater in Redwood City.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is what it is. Nearly 3 hours of lies, drama, brooding, narcissism, and greed all dripping with sweaty, southern condescension. There are a lot of unlikable characters, doing deplorable things, talking in viscous repetitive circles. It is also a play in many ways that was ahead of its time and a classic for that reason. If you like that kind of thing, Los Altos Stage Company’s version is probably as good as any. If you don’t like this kind of thing, you have two intermissions with which to make your early exit. This play is I think in many ways an actors dream and a nightmare. Juicy, large roles (pages of monologues and pages of no dialogue that you have to react to) and miles upon miles of subtext that you get to and need to work with. While there were plenty of moments of nuanced performance that stuck out, in general I wanted far more depth, more of that subtext to rise to the surface, and the pacing to be picked way up. 3 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a very dark and depressing birthday party. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof plays through February, 16th at Los Alto Stage Company.
I’ve seen a half-dozen Cirque du Soliel tours come through San Jose in the last 8 or 9 years and I’ve come to expect a certain “type” of show from them. I want to see things I DON’T regularly see in theater or concerts or local live performance. I want death-defying acts, ethereal, primal live music and I want a creative spectacle. I don’t care about a storyline, a political statement and I’m not there for linear story. The fewer safety cables and the bigger twists on what are not standard cirque acts, the better. The most recent tour, Amaluna is loosely based on The Tempest, features an almost entirely female cast and runs about 2 hours with a 25 minute intermission. It seems unfair to say, since I can’t walk in heels without holding my breath most days, but this version seems to be less technically inspiring, abbreviated in its number or acts and almost like a lite version of the usual cirque show. The ending is abrupt, there is an enormous amount of “filler” dance and comedy that I’d be fine without, and the music which is heavy rock in most places seems jarring and thus totally separate from the show. I have to say, while there are merits to this show (lights and costumes are always spectacularly unique) it strays pretty far from my expectation and thus I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to. A generous 3 out of 5 for a square peg of a show forced in a round hole. Amaluna plays through March 2nd at the Taylor Street Bridge in San Jose.