Arts » Theater

2018 Begins on Bay Area Stages

by Richard Dodds
Sunday Jan 14, 2018

With a new year aborned, and the theatrical lull of the holidays and attendant distractions behind us, it's time to take stock of how 2018 will begin to unfurl on our stages. Here are some attractions crowding their ways into the January calendar, including solo turns, world premieres, the opening of a new venue, and a couple of chestnuts still roasting on an open fire.

Going Solo

Comedian Louie Anderson is debuting a new theater piece based on a memoir written in the form of letters to his late father. "Dear Dad" is running through Jan. 14 at ACT's Strand Theater, where audiences will see for the first time how he reconstructs the story of growing up in a housing project as the 10th of 11 children, with an alcoholic father more forthcoming with condemnation than commendation. He has mined his dysfunctional family for material throughout his career, and won an Emmy Award for channeling his long-suffering mother into his cross-dressing role as Zach Galifianakis' mom on TV's "Baskets." Tickets at

Marga Gomez, San Francisco's solo queen, claims that "Latin Standards" is the last one-woman show she will write. Back at Brava Theatre Center, where it had a workshop before its debut at New York's Public Theatre last year, its official San Francisco premiere inaugurates Brava's new cabaret space. In "Latin Standards," running Jan. 11-28, Gomez is again looking back at her colorfully tempestuous home life as the child of fame-chasing entertainers, with the new show narrowing in on her father's songwriting ambitions. Tickets at

There will be one-persons in profusion as PlayGround presents its first Solo Performance Festival. Running Jan. 11-28 at Potrero Stage, eight local actors offer works on a rotating schedule. A sampling includes Lisa Evans' "You Should Really Sit Like a Lady (or How I Got to Femme"), which pulls in martial arts, R&B divas, and live music to explore the road to gender identity; Michael Phillis' "Dolls," in which a man's collection of figurines creates its own pecking order; and Marjorie Hazeltine's "The Notorious Bug," where a doctoral student goes against the tradition of using male names for new species and creates gender confusion for a new genus of praying mantis by naming it after Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A full schedule is available at

Fresh Chestnuts

"Man of La Mancha" is getting the stripped-down, actors-as-musicians treatment used in recent years for Broadway revivals of "Sweeney Todd" and "Company." Custom Made Theatre's production of the 1965 musical runs Jan. 11-Feb. 17, with Edward Hightower heading the cast as Cervantes/Quixote. Director Brian Katz chose the "Impossible Dream" musical in reaction to the current political climate: "I felt we needed a glimmer of light to remind us why we fight." Tickets at

Director Susi Damilano also sees contemporary relevance in San Francisco Playhouse's latest offering, even though it's been 71 years since it was first seen on Broadway. "Born Yesterday," she says, is a "timeless story of integrity triumphing over political self-interest." Michael Torres and Millie Brooks play a junkyard tycoon and his showgirl mistress, with Anthony Fusco as a journalist hired to give her a veneer of polish as the uncouth businessman tries to buy political favors in Washington. Garson Kanin's comedy runs Jan. 23-March 10. Tickets at

Premiere Attractions

"Megabytes! The Musical" is the latest show from Morris Bobrow, the writer-director of such long runs as "Shopping! The Musical" and "Foodies! The Musical." In his latest musical comedy revue, he takes us through the travails of everyday folks dealing with life in a cyber world: self-Googling, forgotten passwords, butt dialing, a lack of Facebook likes, and the commitment required to finally hit "send." Performances are Jan. 19-March 3 at the Shelton Theatre. Tickets at

The Magic Theatre opens the New Year with the world premiere of "Reel to Reel," running Jan. 31-Feb. 25. In writer-director John Kolvenbach's unconventional exploration of a 55-year marriage, four actors on stage playing younger and older versions of the couple are surrounded by recorded conversations, arguments, and household noises to create a collage of Walter and Maggie's life together. Tickets at

The life of one survivor of the AIDS epidemic is thrown into turmoil as his life loses direction and the legacy he has held onto is ripped away in "Still at Risk," having its world premiere at New Conservatory Theatre on Jan. 19-Feb. 25. Dennis Lickteig is directing the new play by Tim Pinckney, whose "Message to Michael" was seen at NCTC nearly 20 years ago. Tickets at

San Jose Triad

A new venue for live theater is opening at the site of a former San Jose movie triplex. The Camera 3 theaters went dark in October, and will reopen this month in renovated form as 3 Below Theatres and Lounge. The largest of the space's three venues, with 250 seats, will be dedicated to live theater productions, and its opening attraction is the musical revue "Sondheim on Sondheim," running Jan. 18-Feb. 4.

ComedySportz's long-running improv shows will continue in the facility's 99-seat theater, while the 89-seat auditorium will be used for independent, revival, and art films. Food and drinks will be available to both theatergoers and the public in a new cafe fashioned from the former home of Psycho Donuts.

Guggenheim Entertainment, made up of husband-and-wife team Shannon and Scott Guggenheim, and brother Stephen Guggenheim, have experience repurposing cinemas, having previously offered live programming at several South Bay moviehouses. Their new location will have plenty of parking; it's located below the parking structure at 2nd and San Carlos streets in downtown San Jose. More info at

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