In-person theatrical performances has been possible in the Bay Area after a prolonged duration of confinement due to the disease. But, it was not sufficient to match the levels of attendance and production prior to COVID. It was a year of changes and turmoil, such as the resignations by Susie Medak (long-serving Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s director of operations) and AlterTheater’s Jeanette Harron and the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Rebecca Ennals and Marin Theatre Company’s Jasson Miadakis. Even with all this change and uncertainty, it’s clear that the company is making progress.
After six years of reconstruction, Uers Playhouse was able be reopened after San Francisco’s EXIT Theatre closed and San Jose’s Dragon Productions Theatre Company announced that they may no longer be hosting productions for 2019. There were still many exceptional performances on local stages throughout this year, despite sadness of the news. I was fortunate to witness the most memorable events. I’ll mention “Indecent” which was performed at the San Francisco Playhouse. Paula Vogel’s innovative work is based on Sholem Asch’s Yiddish show.
The gripping one-person play by Playwright Lucas Hnath, entitled “Dana H.”, presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre, epitomizes the controversy that surrounded its creation, which included the whole actor being detained over obscenity. The play is paired with an ever-rising incidence of antisemitism across Europe in the era of. Under the direction of Susi Damilano, this production resonated with a powerful resonance due to the incredible actors who seamlessly shifted roles within a beautifully theatrical play-within-a-play. Jordan Baker gives a riveting performance in which she is embodies the voice and words of the playwright’s mother in her months-long abduction.
Les Waters’s masterful direction and his authentic story of the play produced a deeply moving and thrilling evening at “Hadestown,” an exclusive post-Broadway production. This show that was original and captivating audiences with its engaging mixture of blues, jazz and folk songs. The show also included an enthralling, emotionally charged rendition of Eurydice as well as Orpheuswho descends into Hades. A special mention should go to Kimberly Marable’s mesmerizing performance as Persephone, the exuberant ruler of the underworld.
The Aurora Theater Company’s rendition of Jonathan Spector’s “This Many I Know” is a masterful production. Jackson Gay, the director, is in charge. The play tells about a family struggling with its emotional attempts to integrate the public pool system in Kansas City. This story spans many decades as well as the fashions that were popular at the time. It’s narrated by a wit and humor that has captivating performance. It is an engaging insight into a topic that is important.
The Berkeley Repertory Theatre premiered “Goddess” which was a world premiere of the play. Rajesh Bose, Anna Ishida and Kenny Toll played their roles as semi-reformed white supremacists. The musical, written by Jocelyn Bioh with songs by Michael Thurber, presented an African deity of music with energetic rhythms, powerful choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie and stunning singing from Amber Iman as the titular goddess.
In summary, Aurora Theatre Company’s version of Jonathan Spector’s “This Much I know” is an exceptional performance, performed by director Jackson Gay, that artfully portrays the story of a family’s efforts to bring their family into public swimming pools in the Kansas city. The story, which spans over a decade, was told with wit and awe-inspiring performances. It is a compelling piece which provides an unique viewpoint regarding this issue.