Cy and David's Picks: A Frankenstein Ballet, Noise Pop and Shack-Shakers

A scene from the Royal Ballet production of Liam Scarlett's 'Frankenstein,' now being staged at the San Francisco Ballet. (Photo: The Royal Opera House.Bill Cooper/Royal Opera House)

KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.

Tough choices this week for the radio show. We barely had room for the 12th Annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival, run by Nina Menendez. She always puts on great shows, like the Feb. 19 concert featuring José Maya with his newest work Latente, at the Herbst Theater. The Festival continues through Feb. 25 with shows in San Francisco and Oakland. Now here's the show.

Feb. 17 & 18: The Legendary Shack Shakers is the brainchild of J.D. Wilkes out of Paducah, Kentucky. He's a harmonica player who sometimes strips off his shirt on stage -- a somewhat punk move, but the music is deeply rooted in country and jump blues. We would call it rockabilly, but Wilkes hates that term. Doesn't matter. It's great music, and Wilkes is a renaissance man, with a novel out soon about the invasive plant kudzu, called The Vine That Ate the South. Catch them at The Ritz in San Jose (details here), or Brick and Mortar in San Francisco (details here).

Georgia Engel stars in Annie Baker's Pulitzer Prize winning play 'John', opening Feb. 22 at the Strand Theater
Georgia Engel stars in Annie Baker's Pulitzer Prize winning play 'John,' opening Feb. 22 at the Strand Theater. (Photo: Michael Murphy/Signature Theater)

Feb. 22–April 23: Annie Baker writes haunting plays in which sometimes, not much is happening. Yet she holds an audience with her deep insights into the meaning of relationships. John is her enthusiastically reviewed, Obie Award-winning play from 2015 about a disintegrating marriage. It's set at a bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, and explores the relationship that develops between the wife and the landlady at the B&B. It features the great actress Georgia Engel (of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Everybody Loves Raymond) as the landlady. Back in 2012, we had a mini-fest of Baker plays, with Aliens at SF Playhouse, Body Awareness at the Aurora, and Circle Mirror Transformation at Marin Theatre Company. We're so glad Baker is back in this American Conservatory Theater production at the Strand. Details here.


Feb. 17: Bay Area singer-songwriter Rachel Efron has a small, high voice that, according to a review by my co-host David Wiegand, "hooks you by the heart." This week, she teams up with Ira Marlowe, another under-appreciated Bay Area singer-songwriter, for a show they're calling Gods and Monsters. It's a musical exploration which promises to be less horror movie, and more about the way "we make gods and monsters of each other." Sounds like modern politics. Details for their show at the Monkey House in Berkeley are here. And it's a cheap thrill, with tickets as low as $10.

Feb. 17–26: Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus is almost 200 years old, but it feels as fresh as ever; a cautionary tale on the ethics of bioengineering and a heartbreaking story of a creature searching for its identity. Choreographer and Royal Ballet artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett has made a fresh adaptation of the story. It opened last year in London, and now Scarlett is overseeing a new production for the San Francisco Ballet. I asked Scarlett how he gets this awkward creature, assembled from ill-fitting parts, to dance. "I told all the (Frankenstein) dancers to imagine themselves as a newborn baby in an adult’s body," Scarlett told me backstage during a break from rehearsal. "I think one of the perfect examples is to watch a baby deer, where they haven’t got control of their limbs and yet everything is there. We had to teach him how to walk, before he could run, before he could dance." Details for this San Francisco Ballet co-commission at the San Francisco Opera House are here.

Feb. 17–26: The Noise Pop Festival, San Francisco's indie music and arts fest, is 25 years old and hitting its prime. What started as six bands for five bucks at on a single night has grown into a music and film festival with more than 150 acts at venues in San Francisco and Oakland. There's still an emphasis on local bands like Rogue Wave, Hot Flash Heat Wave and Ty Segall, but you can also catch Long Beach hip-hop star Vince Staples, the Joy Formidable, MSTRKRFT, plus Michelle Zauner's Japanese Breakfast. Plus movies -- including Hired Gun, about the anonymous virtuosos who join bands for recording sessions and concerts, and The Resurrection of Victor Jara, about the beloved radical Chilean folk singer. Read recommendations by KQED Arts Music Editor Emma Silvers of shows that aren't yet sold out here, and see details for all Noise Pop shows here.