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Fall is for Theater: Five Glorious Bay Area Plays

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The widows in Naatak’s new Hindi musical Vrindavan. (Photo: Amit Basu)


The fall’s an exciting time to be a Bay Area theatergoer. Most theaters are starting their new seasons and putting their best feet forward with a stunning selection of shows. We could easily name a dozen plays and musicals that are well worth seeing in the months to come, but here’s just a handful that we’re particularly eager to see.

The Oldest Boy playwright Sarah Ruhl. (Photo: Courtesy of Marin Theatre Company)
The Oldest Boy playwright Sarah Ruhl. (Photo courtesy of Marin Theatre Company)

The Oldest Boy

Sept. 10 – Oct. 11
Marin Theatre Company
Tickets and information

More often than not, new Sarah Ruhl plays have come to the Bay Area through Berkeley Repertory Theatre (including next year’s For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday), so it’s refreshing to see multiple theaters bringing the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship-winning playwright’s work to local stages. This season the Marin Theatre Company starts the ball rolling with The Oldest Boy, and in November San Francisco Playhouse gets into the act with Stage Kiss. But it’s the MTC production that is an absolute “not-miss”: in this play, which is seeing its West Coast premiere, an American woman grapples with the revelation that her 3-year-old might be a reincarnated Tibetan lama who may be needed elsewhere. MTC’s production is only the second of The Oldest Boy after its 2014 premiere at Lincoln Center.

The widows in Naatak’s new Hindi musical Vrindavan. (Photo: Amit Basu)
The widows in Naatak’s new Hindi musical Vrindavan. (Photo by Amit Basu)


Sept. 12 – 27
Tickets and information

Santa Clara-based Naatak, America’s largest Indian theater company, marks its 20th year and its 50th production in a big way with a grand Bollywood-style musical. Written and directed by Sujit Saraf and performed in Hindi with English supertitles, Vrindavan is a story of the titular Indian city that has become home to thousands of widows, who are forbidden to remarry and are left begging in the streets. The musical takes its inspiration from a real-life controversy last year in which the Bollywood-superstar-turned-member-of-Parliament Hema Malini asserted that the widows are more well-off than they appear, and should stay in Bengal and not crowd this holy city.

Monstress cast members Ogie Zulueta and Jomar Tagatac at a recent workshop. (Photo: Alessandra Mello)
Monstress cast members Ogie Zulueta and Jomar Tagatac at a recent workshop. (Photo by Alessandra Mello)


Sept. 16 – Nov. 22
American Conservatory Theater
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Monstress stands out amid ACT’s season as a thoroughly San Francisco project from a company that doesn’t do a lot of those. Having both Philip Kan Gotanda and Camp Santo cofounder Sean San José adapting two Lysley Tenorio short stories — Monstress and Save the I-Hotel, both about Filipino American life in the city — ensures a fascinating alternate perspective on the Bay Area. Gotanda’s Save the I-Hotel focuses on the 1970s eviction of Filipino residents from the International Hotel in the “Manilatown” neighborhood that was then centered on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown. San José’s Monstress follows a Manila B-movie director lured to SF to work with a dodgy American filmmaker.

Ada and the Memory Engine playwright Lauren Gunderson. (Photo courtesy of the playwright.)

Ada and the Memory Engine

Oct. 17 – Nov. 22
Central Works
Tickets and information

Prolific San Francisco playwright Lauren Gunderson returns to one of her favorite topics: overlooked female scientists of history. She’s already explored such characters in plays such as Silent Sky and Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight. For her latest work, which will see its world premiere in the Bay Area, she takes on the heady topic of Ada Lovelace, an early 19th century countess and estranged daughter of Lord Byron, who wrote the world’s first computer program in the 1840s. This is the 49th world premiere for Central Works, a Berkeley company that produces nothing but original works, and it features music by theatrical rock band the Kilbanes.

Rude Mechanicals perform Stop Hitting Yourself at Cal Performances. (Photo: Bret Brookshire)
Rude Mechanicals perform Stop Hitting Yourself at Cal Performances. (Photo by Bret Brookshire)

Stop Hitting Yourself

Nov. 19 – 22
Cal Performances
Tickets and information

An acclaimed ensemble theater collective from Austin, Rude Mechanicals finally make their belated Bay Area debut with back-to-back shows at Z Space (The Method Gun) and Cal Performances. Stop Hitting Yourself is a devised-theater extravaganza that combines political critique with big Busby Berkeley-style 1930s musicals in a story about a socialite trying to teach a wild man from the forest how to behave in high society.

And a few shout outs for your further viewing pleasure:

Blockbuster Season

Sept. 25 – Oct. 18
Tickets and information

In Love and Warcraft

Nov. 12 – Dec. 12
Custom Made Theatre Co.
Tickets and information


Dec. 2 – Jan. 2
Tickets and information


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