Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stoppard Does Chekhov, Plus More "Rock 'n' Roll"

In London, Kenneth Branagh stars in the Donmar West End production of Anton Chekhov's "Ivanov," newly adapted by Stoppard. The production has been well received, for Branagh's performance and Stoppard's adaptation. Critics are reportedly unanimous in their praise.

The reviews for the San Francisco production of "Rock 'n' Roll" keep streaming in:
San Francisco Bay Times
Sacramento Bee
The Bay Guardian
The Daily Californian

Meanwhile, in a Times Online video interview, Stoppard claims that his approach to theater is "very, very lowbrow." You betcha.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stephenson Is to Stoppard As...

It took me close to two months, but I finally dragged myself through Neal Stephenson's 900-page philosophical science fiction epic, "Anathem." Oy. I'm a big fan of the author of "Cryptonomicon" and "The Baroque Cycle," but this tale of cloistered scholars making their way into the outside to deal with extraterrestrial visitors was a struggle all the way through. I nearly gave up a couple times, but I persevered, mainly because I knew that The Chronicle should cover the book and that no one else was going to step forward to do so.

It got a little easier once I found a hook for the review. After seeing "Rock 'n' Roll" last week, it struck me that Stephenson is to science fiction as Tom Stoppard is to contemporary drama. Sound far-fetched? Well, read my review from today's Chronicle and see if you agree.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Rock 'n' Roll" Opens at ACT

On Wednesday, Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" opened at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, the play's first post-Broadway outing. I saw it on Wednesday, taking last-minute advantage of ACT's "Pay What You Wish" program.

It's a solid production of a play that doesn't rank among my favorites. The sets, lighting and sound design are especially impressive. I found the male lead, Manoel Felciano as Jan, to be problematic. Perhaps he was merely tired after Opening Night, but his energy level seemed off and he didn't connect with his counterparts as he should have. Jack Willis was more in the groove as Max, the aging Marxist professor, and his scenes with Rene Augesen as his dying wife/regretful daughter were beautifully handled.

In the Friday San Francisco Chronicle, Robert Hurwitt gave the production an enthusiastic review. On his blog, Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle takes special note of Augesen's performance.

Pat Craig at the Contra Costa Times
had good things to say about this "Rock 'n' Roll," as did Lee Hartgrave at BeyondChron. Chad Jones at The Examiner was equally positive in his appraisal.

If you have tickets, be sure to take a moment to read the timeline printed in the program. The historical context is greatly helpful.