Playwrights’ Center* of San Francisco Presents “Sheherezade’s Last Tales!”

by Charles Kruger

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 11.19.31 PM

Let’s have some love for the short play!

The traditional two or three act play is what most theatregoers have known for the past century or more. There is an introductory first act that sets up the situation, an intermission where the theatre can sell drinks at the bar, a second act that delivers complications, more drinks at the bar, and a final act in which all is resolved before midnight. Many of the greatest plays in theatrical history have fit comfortably into this format.

But one-act plays, like short stories, also have a long tradition, dating back to the very beginnings of theatre in ancient Greece. Bet you didn’t know that!

One-acts really came into their own in the 20th century, however. Masters of the form include some of our greatest playwrights, such as Edward Albee, Samuel Beckett, and Caryl Churchill.

And if short is good, might not shorter be even better? At least sometimes? With the turn of the millennium, fiction writers have not been limited to novels and short stories; recent decades have seen the advent of “short shorts” — polished short stories so tightly compressed they can be told in hundreds of words or less, rather than thousands.

And in the theatre, we have seen the celebration of the “Ten Minute Play.” Since the mid 1980s, Ten Minute (or short play) festivals and contests have popped up everywhere, from the renowned Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, to the New York Collective of the Arts, to the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco.

Which brings us to “Sheherezade’s Last Tales.” For the past 15 years, the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco has presented its own annual showcase of fully produced world premiere short plays that bring together the talents of local writers, actors, directors and designers. For those in-the-know, the Sheherezade festival has been a yearly highlight of San Francisco’s theatrical season, an event for the true connoisseur. If a touring national company resembles a conventional full course dinner, and a locally produced three act play is the theatrical equivalent of a sophisticated restaurant, then “Sheherezade’s Last Tales” might be considered a fine serving of tapas  — theatrical food for the truly discerning palate.

This year’s edition of Sheherezade is described as “Last Tales” because it is the last Sheherezade Festival to be presented in its current format. Plans are afoot to create a new format that will be announced later in 2016.

This year’s festival, opening this weekend, is helmed by Playwrights’ Center President Bridgette Dutta Portman and her colleague, Jerome Joseph Gentes, acting as co-producers. The eight short plays which make up the festival will be directed by Laylah Muran de Assereto and Adam L. Sussman. The experienced and professional ensemble cast includes Alexaendrai Bond, AJ Davenport, Amber Glasgow, Rick Homan, Brian Levi, Miyoko Sakatani, and Louel Senores.

Here are the featured playwrights:

Oakland Playwright Madeleine Butler is presenting at the Festival for the second year in a row. She is a jazz singer and improvisational actress, and has been a member of the Playwright’s Center and the Playground Writers’ Pool for two seasons. Not just a playwright, she is also at work on a novel, a memoir, essays, short fiction, and poems.

Steven Hill is well known and widely published as a political writer in many leading newspapers and journals. His articles and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle and many other leading publicationsAn admirer of the of the renaissance ideal, he also paints, composes music, writes fiction and poetry, and, of course, plays.

Vaughn Hovanessian is a San Francisco native who spends his retirement auditing classes at UC Berkeley and watching the horses at Golden Gate Fields. He is also a member of the Playwright’s Center and the author of “Rorschach Test,” a short play in which a couple attends a marriage counseling session with a twist.

Bill Hyatt, is a director and actor as well as a playwright. Several of his plays have been produced. As a director, he has presented many world and West Coast premieres, and was one of the directors participating in the historic “Lysistrata Project,” an international theatrical event of 2003, protesting the U.S. military entry into Iraq.

Carol S. Lashof has had plays produced on five continents — from the celebrated Magic Theatre in San Francisco to Peking University in Bejing — and broadcast on BET and NPR as well. She is a cofounder and resident playwright for Those Women Productions, which is “devoted to exploring classic stories from new angles.”

Rod McFadden, serves as Chair on the Board of Directors for the Playwrights’ Center, and has received awards from national playwriting competitions. His second full-length play, “Hope’s Last Chance,” received its world premiere in San Francisco as part of Wily West‘s 2013 season.

Lorraine Midanik comes to the theatre after retirement from a distinguished academic career, which culminated in her appointment as Dean in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. A passionate theatre devotee, she has been a member of PCSF since 2013 and has had several of her short plays produced locally. She is a member of Theatre Bay Area and the Dramatists Guild, and serves on the board of Stagebridge.

Patricia L. Morin is an award winning crime and mystery writer, whose short stories in that genre have been widely published and admired. She is the author of several plays, most notably her two hander, “The Gatekeeper,” which won multiple awards in the 2012 Fringe of Marin Playwrighting Competition.

“Sheherezade’s Last Tales!” will play at The Exit Theatre December 3rd through December 12th. For further information, click here.



*TheatreStorm Sponsor

Review: ‘Stage Kiss’ at SF Playhouse (****1/2)

by Victor Cordell
Rating: ****1/2
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

She (Carrie Paff) and He (Gabriel Marin), are former lovers, cast in a play about former lovers. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli.

She (Carrie Paff) and He (Gabriel Marin), are former lovers, cast in a play about former lovers. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli.

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Sarah rules!

“Stage Kiss” is a Sarah Ruhl love letter to theater, and director Susi Damilano pushes all the right buttons to make it a frothy, enjoyable evening.

An unnamed actress (called She in the program) is played with great conviction by the talented Carrie Paff. Having been largely inactive in acting after marriage and raising a daughter, She auditions for a role in a renewal of a 1930’s play that failed to leave much of a mark. To her surprise, she gets the role. But to her greater surprise, she finds at the first rehearsal that her unnamed male co-star (called He – what else?) is a former lover. He is played with similar effectiveness by Gabriel Marin.

The lovers’ parting nearly 20 years before was not pretty, but each carries some yearning for the other. Their clumsy reunion is exacerbated when the director, played by an energetic and goofy Mark Anderson Philips, insists that they rehearse stage kissing at the outset to alleviate the tension of anticipating the action later on. Many actors say that kissing another in a performance is so false and unmotivated that it is one of the most difficult parts of acting. But as He and She embrace, one quickly wonders if the ensuing heat is acted or real.

While She is prosperous and happily married to an investment banker, He is a Peter Pan living on the fringes, currently shacked up with a school teacher he barely knows. There wouldn’t be much of a play if his and her passions were not reignited, and before long, the exhibition of late onset raging hormones begins. Of course, an affair between two people working together is hard to hide, and characters affected by it begin to learn and intercede. As She’s husband, Michael Gene Sullivan gives a polished performance. He approaches the cleft in his marriage with the confidence and analytical exactitude of a successful executive looking to solve a problem. Taylor Imam Jones plays the 16 year old daughter, whose juvenile reactions , like “You bitch – I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”) are delivered with verve.

Ruhl’s play is a pure send up of theater people and their conventions – a satire without serious intent. The two plays-within-the-play are particularly ridiculous. In the first, a dying wife entreats her husband to invite her former lover to her deathbed, and the lover’s return heals the wife. The second is a love story between a Brooklyn prostitute and an IRA gunman. The script is very funny, and remarkably, many of the lines in the play would seem sterile on the page. Credit Ruhl for envisioning how those words could be made funny, Damilano for creating the context and the guidance, and the actors for delivering the goods. Paff and Phillips are particularly funny when he is giving stage directions and she is trying to find the right mode of expression and practicing the lines. Marin is droll in his characterization of arrested development, with his head in the clouds and his sex drive in drive.

Technical elements in “Stage Kiss” are strong, with well designed lighting and sound. Set design, by Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott, deserves particular recognition. In addition to the common changing of props on the same set to create a different venue, three different sets are used, taking advantage of SF Playhouse’s revolving stage.

“Stage Kiss” plays at SF Playhouse through January 9, 2016 at 450 Post Street, San Francisco. For further information, click here.



 “Stage Kiss” by Sarah Ruhl, produced by SF Playhouse. Director: Susi Damilano. Set Designers: Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott. Lighting Designer: Robert Hand. Sound Designer: Theodore J.H. Hulsker. Costume Designer: Brooke Jennings.


She: Carrie Paff. He: Gabriel Marin. Director: Mark Anderson Phillips. Husband: Michael Gene Sullivan. Kevin/Butler/Doctor/Pimp: Allen Darby. Laurie/Millicent: Milli DeBenedet. Millie/Maid/Angela: Taylor Iman Jones.


Review: ‘The Seafarer’ by Conor McPherson, presented by Hawkmoon Theatre in Berkeley (****)

by Barry David Horwitz

Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)


This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

The Devil of a play has arrived at Live Oak Park in Berkeley. You wouldn’t expect this 2006 award-winning Irish drama to reside in such pastoral surroundings, but there it glows, like the gift of a burning comet from another solar system. Five Irish drinkers have gathered in a run-down cottage in Baldoyle, on the coast north of Dublin, for quite a few nips on Christmas eve. They sail through the whole night and into the morning, drinking, carousing, and playing poker — in a game with extra-terrestrial consequences.

This long night’s journey, directed by Michael Storm, who also plays Mr. Lockhart, the sinister stranger among the five profane card players, slowly unfolds its Christmas gift of existential revelations that shake our hearts and reveal our inner loneliness.

Each of these characters, brilliantly drawn by five fine, subtle, and experienced Bay Area actors, becomes a distinct and diamond-sharp acquaintance in the course of the ominous, pregnant night. This is an effective, traditionally structured play, with an intermission and a second act that changes and charges the entire universe with its reversal of fortune. Although they seem like ordinary and unsavory guys, trapped in an all male universe of competition and self indulgence, the five poker buddies embody Christian myths, based on the Anglo-Saxon poem, “The Seafarer,” reaching back to earlier Gaelic spirituality. McPherson makes it easy to follow these characters into their depths and then out into the universe, again. They don’t do much, there’s a lot of sitting, and we could wish for more movement around that dilapidated, brilliantly shabby, and poor little house, but director Storm has us trapped in McPherson’s static world, waiting for the morn, the “miraculous birth.”

In an extraordinary turn in this ensemble piece, James ‘Sharky’ Harkin is played by the sharp and insightful Kevin Karrick. Kerrick lumbers around the stage, taking orders, tending to the needs of his brother. Sharky is trying to mend his ways, amend his sins, and is staying off the sauce, for now. Sharkey is the “Seafarer,” who has never been able to hold onto a job, or sobriety, or a girlfriend. His abusive older brother, Richard Harkin, flawlessly and brutally played by the equally extraordinary Clive Worsley, was recently blinded by falling into a dumpster. Sharky debases himself endlessly, taking the heaps of disdain from his drunken, selfish, foul-mouthed brother, who dissolves into a bawling infant when he does not get his way. Their interaction alone, embodying ignorant arrogance and long-suffering victimhood, in the hands of the impeccable Kerrick and Worsley, constitutes great drama, at the heart of this everyday fable. Kerrick, hangdog and laconic; Worsley, hyper and abusive, are building to a brotherly crisis that rumbles forth, with tragic inevitability. They make your bones rattle.

An attractively hellish pair, Nicky (a slithery Justin Dupis) and Lockhart, arrive to play against Sharky and Richard and their friend Ivan (Don Wood) in the most intense and tricky poker game you’ve ever seen onstage, I’ll bet. Their accents are spot on Gaelic, their drunkenness is perfect and restrained, and you can feel the doom approaching the hapless threesome. Storm plays the mysterious Lockhart, who is more than he seems to be, with admirable restraint and repressed fury. Some of his conversations with the silently fuming Sharky seem to be inspired by Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” or Camus’ “The Stranger.”

The story is as unpredictable as any game of poker must be, played by unfortgettable characters on a dark and stormy Christmas Eve on the Gaelic coast north of Dublin. These hapless drunken losers will surprise you with unexpected grace and haunt your dreams.

“The Seafarer” by Conor McPherson, plays through Sunday, December 20, at Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley.  For more information, click here.



“The Seafarer” by Conor McPherson, produced by Hawkmoon Theatre. Director: Michael Storm. Costume Designer: Ashley Grambow. Properties: Kaitlin Rosen. Sound: Ryan Short. Lighting: Kristie Leffler. Stage Manager: Gary Quinn. Stage Crew: Brendan Yungert. Dialect Coach: Nancy Carlin.


James ‘Sharky’ Harkin: Kevin Karrick. Richard Harkin: Clive Worsley. Ivan: Don Wood. Nicky: Justin DuPuis. Mr. Lockhart: Michael Storm.







Review: “Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce” at Curran: Under Construction (***)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: ***
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Steve Cuiffo as Lenny Bruce. Photo Credit; Jim Norrena.

Steve Cuiffo as Lenny Bruce. Photo Credit; Jim Norrena.

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)


Lenny Bruce, half a century after his death, remains one of the most recognizable names in American Culture. He published no books, performed in no movies, starred in no stage plays, was involved in no political movements.

What he did was stand around on stages in nightclubs, often with a copy of a recent newspaper or magazine in his hand, speaking more or less extemporaneously about the current scene. He didn’t tell jokes. He rambled. But his ramblings contained insights of such startling brilliance, such humorous acuity, such transcendent hipness, such bepop alacrity, that he set a standard for intelligent comedy that has yet to be surpassed.

And he did it at a time when, for most Americans, the height of comedic skill was represented by Uncle Miltie.

He made his name in San Francisco. It has been pointed out that if he had tried to present his act in Fresno, no one would ever have heard of him. But San Francisco hipsters, jazz musicians, beat writers, artists, intellectuals and scenesters gravitated to his dry wit, insight, and outrageousness.

Like the beat poets, he spoke about the unspeakable in a time of monstrous conformity, under the frightening shadow of a pressure for conformity that poet Alan Ginsberg characterized as the demon, Moloch. For this, he was repeatedly jailed on obscenity charges.

He was a troubled man. In 1959, Herb Caen wrote that Lenny Bruce presented “…the kind of truth that might not have dawned on you if there weren’t a few Lenny Bruces around to hammer it home.” But by 1964, Caen was less supportive, remarking, “You should be doing this material on a psychiatrist’s couch, not in a night club.”

There is plenty of film of Bruce performing, but, still, one might wonder, “What was he really like on stage?”

Thanks to Steve Cuiffo’s brilliant interpretation, we can get a pretty damn good idea. Cuiffo recreates Bruce’s routine verbatim — not just the words spoken, but every stammer and stutter, the “mms,” “ahhs,” “uhuh’s,” that great comics use to polish a line, make a point, structure the delivery. Cuiffo does not do a dead on take of the original — unlike Lenny, he takes his time, and seems less jittery, less neurotic. But the material is sharp, concise, funny, and seems completely contemporary.

Pay attention, and you’ll come away from this performance believing that Bruce was a genius, a visionary, even a prophet.

This is a brilliant and egoless performance, in which Cuiffo is completely dedicated to the material and his genius subject, disappearing completely into the character.

And yes, you will laugh until your sides ache.

See this show to get a damn good idea of where that cat was really at.

“Steve Cuiffo is Lenny Bruce” plays one more performance, tonight, November 21, at the Curran Theater. For further information, click here.



“Steve Cuiffo is Lenny Bruce,” a “performance portrait” arranged and performed by Steve Cuiffo, taken verbatim from Bruce’s original performances. Produced by Curran Under Construction.


Review: World Premiere of John Fisher’s ‘Shakespeare Goes to War’ at Theatre Rhinoceros (*****)

by Barry David Horwitz
Rating: *****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

(from L to R): Jesse F. Vaughn, Gabriel A. Ross, John Fisher, and Sean Keehan in Theatre Rhinoceros' world premiere production of John Fisher's "Shakespeare Goes to War." Photo Credit: David Wilson.

(from L to R): Jesse F. Vaughn, Gabriel A. Ross, John Fisher, and Sean Keehan in Theatre Rhinoceros’ world premiere production of John Fisher’s “Shakespeare Goes to War.” Photo Credit: David Wilson.

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

John Fisher has to be the first words of this review because he is the playwright, director, actor, and head of Theatre Rhinoceros, and because he brings us a World Premiere performance of a rich play drawn from his own life. And he does all that humbly, comically, and brilliantly. Fisher takes his experiences as a shy gay student in a California public high school and shows us how an English teacher named Harry Smith demonstrates to his students how to act in Shakespeare, how to love the theater, and how to be honorable citizens. Along the way, the young student, Jack Fletcher (Gabriel A. Ross), learns the secrets of Smith’s past. Fletcher finds out that his teacher, Smith (Fisher), was a POW in WWII, and that the Commandant, Oberst Klambach, forced Smith to stage “Romeo and Juliet” and “Othello”, using US Army prisoners as actors. Ross plays the younger Smith in WWII, while Fisher plays the stage-struck Nazi Klambach, mingling “Hogan’s Heroes” with a serio-comic critique of art and war.

Ross, as both the student Fletcher and the Young Harry in the U.S. Army, keeps us focused throughout on two different stories, the classroom and the POW camp. He makes the play possible by his intensity and his sprightly characterizations of a questioning and self-doubting young guy. He proves a worthy counter-point to Fisher’s multiple roles.

Fisher not only writes and directs, but plays the teacher, the Dad, and the Nazi Commandant, making each one a memorable, distinct, and nuanced character. What more can we ask? Fisher succeeds in enlightening us about theater, Shakespeare, acting, Brecht, WWII, history, teaching, learning, coming out, racism, and gay repression. All this takes place during the campaign for the Brigg’s Initiative (Prop 6) of the 1970s, which tried to ban gay teachers from the classroom in California. Smith, the gay teacher, keeps his gayness hidden, preferring more subtle messages and methods.

Even Ronald Reagan (Kevin Copps) makes a cameo appearance and saves teacher and student alike from Briggs at the last electoral gasp. Along the way, the young Fletcher learns about politics, aesthetics, elections, and homophobia — among other things — a regular Tony Kushner-esque panoply of history and personal discovery that keeps us riveted all through the three hour production. By the end, you will have a tear in your eye, truly, for the sweet and subtle tribute to Harry Smith, the true philosopher-king of Fisher’s play. How sweet it must be that he gets to play his own beloved Shakespeare teacher, who advises Fletcher that he must go to Yale or to Berkeley — Yale, where they turn out so many fine gay actors; or Berkeley, where they turn out rebels, clearly.

Through it all, we are treated to wildly comic scenes of U.S. military prisoners trying to act and direct “Othello,” “Romeo & Juliet,” “Richard II,” and Coriolanus. Each Shakespearean scene becomes more understandable as the soldiers and the students struggle with costumes and props. They struggle with words and music, meaning and action, with direction provided by the Nazi with an “artistic streak,” an actor himself; or by Harry Smith in the classroom, who has a soft touch and a winning way — both played impeccably by Fisher.

Only five actors combine and split to cover a mass of roles: Sean Keehan plays Ryker Flek, a surly student, and Capt. Conroy, a southern military prisoner with decidedly backwards and racist views. Conroy provides a brilliant Hotspur-like foil for young Fletcher’s self-questioning and theatrical flair as Juliet and Desdemona in their hilarious attempts at love scenes.

Jesse F. Vaughn plays Jeremiah Denby, Fletcher’s crush in high school, as well as playing Captain Washington, a U.S. prisoner who gets tricked into playing Othello for the resourceful Fletcher. Vaughn and Ross make a fetching couple as Othello and a blonde be-wigged Desdemona, respectively. They bring us lots of laughter and thoughts about race and politics during the War.

Kevin Kopps plays: State Senator Briggs, the homophobe; Shelby Bachman, an “out” teacher who tries his best to be honest with students; Colonel Parker Maitland, a British POW officer; Ronald Reagan; and various other roles—another tour de force of acting prowess.

Our focus remains on the slow, painful, and comic development of Gabriel A. Ross’s main character, Jack Fletcher (J.F.), who learns slowly. He plays Prince Hal to his teacher’s King Harry. Fisher’s portrayal of the boy’s lawyer father is priceless and completely amoral, taking a “business” stand on every issue—even repression and homophobia. Fisher’s subtle and comic portrayals of the Dad, the Nazi, and Harry Smith, the teacher he celebrates here, are essential, elegant components of the play, a finely tuned, if occasionally overdone whole. But I loved every minute, I confess.

The dialogue is crisp, witty, and thought-provoking, giving us insights into theater, war, and heroism in the classroom and in political life. The teacher who changed the life of his student comes across as the admirable hero of the piece — an unusual hero who encourages art and feeling after he comes out of the prison camp. Harry Smith, a king among men, becomes a quiet hero who knows when to move on to the next thing, when to let go. Fisher’s teacher, Harry Smith, shows us the difference between fiction and reality — the line so often blurred now. He tells us to “be careful whom you admire; a mentor can be dangerous.”

Harry Smith teaches us how true heroism may be laced with a bit of villainy. Fisher and his intrepid Rhino cast have celebrated the art of a true teacher, who brings Shakespeare to life for his students, and brings them life. He does it for as long as he can. Then he moves on to tennis. His life before teaching, in the POW camps, prepares him well for U.S. high schools.

Fisher melds the old with the new, the avant-garde with The Bard. And he uses the arts of designer Jon Wai-keung Lowe to create a new kind of space at Thick House theater. The audience sits on the stage, while the steep step-seating with its iron railings becomes the playhouse and funhouse for school classrooms, stages, war camps, love scenes, and dinner talks with Dad. The old become young, the young old. “Handy-dandy, who is the beggar, who is the judge?” You will have to see this wonderful, wise, and witty play to decide for yourself.   Don’t miss it!

“Shakespeare Goes to War” continues at Thick House through November 28, 2015. For further information click here.



“Shakespeare Goes to War” by John Fisher. World premiere produced by Theatre Rhinoceros.

Director: John Fisher. Stage Manager: JinAh Lee. Ass’t. Director: Colin Johnson. Scenic/Lighting Designer: Jon Wai-keung Lowe. Costumes: Scarlett Kellum. Sound: John Fisher.


Jack Fletcher/Young Harry: Gabriel A. Ross. Harry Smith/Dad/Oberst Klambach: John Fisher. Ryker Flek/Capt. Conroy, U.S. Army: Sean Keehan. Jeremiah Danby/Capt. Washington, U.S. Army: Jesse F. Vaughn. State Senator Briggs/Shelby Bachman/Colonel Parker Maitland, British Army/Maj. Anatoly Raisnovsky, Red Army/Lyle Thompson/Ronald Reagan: Kevin Copps.


Review: ‘In Love and Warcraft’ — A Bay Area Premiere by Custom Made (****1/2)

(Charles Kruger)
Rating: ****1/2

Ed Berkeley and Monica Ho are charming and delightful in the Madhuri Shekar's sweet and gentle romantic comedy, "In Love and Warcraft" set in the gamer subculture.

Ed Berkeley and Monica Ho are charming and delightful in Madhuri Shekar’s sweet and gentle romantic comedy, “In Love and Warcraft” set in the gamer subculture.


This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Madhuri Shekar is an up-and-coming LA-based playwright whose work has received enthusiastic notices. CustomMade Theatre has made an excellent choice in choosing to present the bay area premiere of her charming, twisty, romantic comedy, “In Love and Warcraft.”

Nerdy but attractive Evie (the delightful Monica Ho) is not only a virgin, but a gamer, spending most of her time online in the virtual world of “Warcraft.” She has a virtual boyfriend, with whom she is virtually monogamous, but avoids intimacy in the real world where she identifies herself as “asexual.”

It turns out that Evie makes extra money writing love letters, twits, and Facebook posts for love lorn undergraduates who are happy to pay her a fee to mend their broken relationships. She boasts that she can turn around any breakup.

Evie is doing fine until she meets a new client, the handsome, gentle, all around good-guy Raul. When Raul asks her on a date in the real world she is astounded and excited and terrified but she says yes. Soon, she and Raul are an item — but she lays down a “no sex” rule.

Evie’s roommate Kitty (an exceptionally funny performance by Laura Espino) is her polar opposite, an unapologetic sexual liberationist, who can’t imagine going without for even a day. She urges Evie to get things going with Raul before winding up alone.

As is the case with any romance, the course of smooth love runs rough, with unexpected complications including the surprising arrival of Evie’s virtual boyfriend in the real world (a finely tuned comedy performance by Drew Reitz), and more.

A highlight of the production is a screamingly funny scene set in the virtual world of “Warcraft” in which all the actors appear as avatars inside the computer game.

These 20-something characters may be caught up in virtual reality, but, as written by Madhuri Shekar, they are as real as real can be. You will fall in love with them, learn about the world of gamers, and laugh heartily all along the way.

In addition to the four leads, Amanda Farbstein and Sal Mattos offer excellent comedic support in a variety of supporting roles. Amanda Farbstein as a sympathetic gynecologist performs a memorable onstage pelvic examination that is explosively funny.

This raunchy, gentle, sweet spirited, informative, well-performed play is a winner.

“In Love and Warcraft” plays at CustomMade through December 12 at CustomMade Theatre’s new venue at 533 Sutter St. near Union Square. For further information, click here.



“In Love and Wardraft” by Madhuri Shekar, Bay Area premiere produced by CustomMade Theatre Company. Director: James Nelson. Scenic Designer: Devin Kasper. Lighting Designer: Maxx Kurzinski. 


Evie: Monica Ho. Kitty: Laura Espino. Raul: Ed Berkeley. Ryan Drew Reltz. Chai/Charlotte/Woman/Doctor: Amanda Farbstein. Tony/Jerry/Nathan/Man: Sal Mattos.




Dear Friends,

TheatreStorm’s first review was published by myself, Charles Kruger (the Storming Bohemian), a little over four years ago, in July of 2011. My credentials were graduate studies in professional theatre at UC Irvine and CSU Long Beach (where I received a Masters on completion of a critical thesis, “The Entropic World of David Mamet”), plus many years of participation in the theatre world as audience, actor, stage manager, and fan, as well as a whole bunch of writing experience in other genres.

We are proud of what has been accomplished since then.

o Over 300 reviews published, covering not only major houses (e.g., SF Opera, A.C.T.), but also paying attention to smaller, more experimental groups (e.g., Do It Live! Productions, Ragged Wing).

o Today, TheatreStorm receives an average of 2,000+ discrete visitors every month.

o The SF Weekly has indentified Charles Kruger (yours truly) as a preeminent critic of small theatre in the Bay area.

o We’ve been noticed beyond the Bay! For example, after reviewing SF Playhouse’s wonderful revival of Tennessee William’s Period of Adjustment, we heard from Rory Marcus of Provincetown’s Tennesee Williams Festival. And when Annie Baker’s collection, The Vermont Plays, was recently published by TCG, we were delighted to discover that a quote from TheatreStorm’s review of The Aliens was a featured blurb (along with quotes from the SF Chronicle, the NY Times, and Time Out New York).

o We have added several distinguished arts practitioners to our group of reviewers including Barry Horwitz, retired Professor of English and Theater from St Mary’s, and Hugh Behm-Seinberg, nationally known poet and CCA professor.

As you might imagine, such accomplishments require a lot of resources and nobody at TheatreStorm is compensated. We would like to maintain and grow — cover more shows, include more interviews and feature articles, reach more deserving companies — but to do so requires some support.

Rather than attempting to get into the business of selling ads (although we are happy to have you sponsor a logo or commission a feature article), we have decided to make a direct solictiation.

If you are an audience member who appreciates our reviews. . .

If you are a producer who has benefited from “pull quotes” . . .

If you are an actor or production professional who has been able to add a helpful review to your scrapbook . . .

If you think the feedback provided by professional reviewers contributes value to our community . . .

Please consider making a modest donation to TheatreStorm to support us in this work.

$10.00 donation – theatre enthusiast

$15.00 donation – theatre professional

$20.00  donation – producer

$10.00 – $15.00 recurring monthly donation – angel

$15.00+ recurring monthly donation – archangel