As Days Grow Dark in the Fall, so Does Theater

Mikhail Baryshnikov enters the mind of Vaslav Nijinsky in Robert Wilson's 'Letters to a Man' at Cal Performances. (Photo: Lucy Jansch)

FallArtsPreview2016SQ

Even though it is still summer, every day is ending a little sooner. And as it gets darker and darker, as the fall leads to the coming winter, the theater returns in full force. Summer theater is a diversion, an art in need of an adjective, whereas in the fall it is just theater. So it is not surprising that the true theatrical season always begins when the summer ends, and that the shows get darker along with the days.

As with all Arts previews, we won’t really know the wisdom of these suggestions until they happen. So as you go to these productions please tell us what you think, either on the comments page here, the one for the actual reviews coming up, or on John Wilkins’ twitter account.

Dee Crosby (Suli Holum) gets ready to fight in Stein | Holcum Project's 'The Wholehearted' at Z Space.
Dee Crosby (Suli Holum) gets ready to fight in Stein | Holcum Project's 'The Wholehearted' at Z Space. (Photo: Kate Freer)

Stein | Holum Projects' The Wholehearted

Sept. 7-10
Z Space, San Francisco
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The Z Space has brought in some of the best and most radical theater artists over the past three years (The Wooster Group, Pig Iron Theater, the Rude Mechs) and now Stein | Holum Projects comes to San Francisco with The Wholehearted. Part performance art, part boxing match, and part Country & Western concert, the show has a classic narrative drive: can a life fractured by fame and exploitation find its way back to hope and decency?

The sad Prince of England on the verge of being the King in Mike Bartlett's 'King Charles III' at ACT.
The sad Prince of England on the verge of being the King in Mike Bartlett's 'King Charles III' at ACT. (Photo: Courtesy of ACT)

The American Conservatory Theater's KING CHARLES III

Sept. 14-Oct. 9
The Geary Theater, San Francisco
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Since Brexit, Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III has become more than an intriguing fantasy. What once seemed a kind of hypothetical stunt -- what if the royal family actually mattered? What if Prince Charles had real political power? Who and what form of government actually unites and expresses the will of the people -- has become a pressing political issue. With America’s grand Trump flirtation and democracies across Europe leaning towards savvier versions of Donald's casual brutality, Barlett’s play gives us a glimpse of a new world order.

(L to R) Howard Johnson and Wayne Turner III in Crowded Fire's production of 'The Shipment' by Young Jean Lee.
(L to R) Howard Johnson and Wayne Turner III in Crowded Fire's production of 'The Shipment' by Young Jean Lee. (Photo: Chershire Isaacs)

Crowded Fire's The Shipment

Sept. 22 - Oct. 15
Thick House, San Francisco
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Perched somewhere between a minstrel show and a drawing room comedy, Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment belongs to the burgeoning genre of wild African-American satire. It’s as if all of a sudden artists looked at what was happening in the world, and declared that melodrama and angry social realism could no longer save the day. As is the case with all real satire, Lee intends to hurt and so what sort of blood ends up on the Crowded Fire stage will be of great interest.

Beth Wilmurt is the explosive and angry Martha in the Shotgun Players' production of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' by Edward Albee.
Beth Wilmurt is the explosive and angry Martha in the Shotgun Players' production of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' by Edward Albee.

The Shotgun Player's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Oct. 12 - Nov. 13
Ashby Stage, Berkeley
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Though now a classic, Albee’s shocker still might be the angriest play to ever become a Broadway hit. And what’s beautiful is that you can’t even tell where the anger is coming from -- it just kind of floats in the air waiting to strike the most vulnerable. That conceptual whiz Mark Jackson is directing and the production is part of the Shotgun Players' experiment in Repertory Theater only makes the outcome that much more interesting. We can imagine the fear already.

 Vaslav Nijinsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov) struggles with his mind in Robert Wilson's 'Letter to a Man' at Cal Performances.
Vaslav Nijinsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov) struggles with his mind in Robert Wilson's 'Letters to a Man' at Cal Performances. (Photo: Lucy Jansch)

Cal Performances presents Letters to a Man

Nov. 10 - 13
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
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There’s something not quite right about portrayals of genius -- take Amadeus for example. And yet it feels right that Mikhail Baryshnikov should be portraying a dream version of Vaslav Nijinsky under the world renowned Robert Wilson’s direction in Letters to a Man at Cal Performances. Starting with Nijinsky’s painful and illuminating diaries, Wilson and Baryshnikov are not so much looking to give us a portrait of an artist, but the burning life of one man’s soul.

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