Cutting Ball Theater

A feast for the nonsenses

Cutting Ball Theater's Ubu Roi frolics in kitchen sink surrealism

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi is probably better known for its riotous Parisian opening (back in 1896) than for the play itself. The profanity it leveled against the city's crème de la crème, beginning with its famous opening incantation, "Merdre!" — not exactly a word but dirty-sounding enough to precipitate a violent revolt long before the final curtain — broke open the doors of the WC on so-called polite society. As it turned out, no one was really keen or able to close them again.Read more »

The Performant: Strindberg sans helium

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A singular marathon

Preparing for a marathon of theatre is similar to preparing for any other kind. Of paramount importance: lots of rest, good hydration, comfortable layers.

This year’s test of my theatre-going tenacity, clocking in at 11.5 hours, came courtesy of the ever-ambitious Cutting Ball Theater, who, with translator Paul Walsh, have been preparing for this event for years: the production of a five-play cycle of August Strindberg’s “chamber plays,” written in the last years of his life. After a year-long series of staged readings, and creation of an archival website, the Strindberg cycle debuted in repertory on October 12, including four all-day marathons of the entire cycle of which I attended the first (the last will play this Sunday, November 18). 

Here's the play-by-play:

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The Performant: Tender is the 'Loin

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Cutting Ball Theater's "Tenderloin" hits a sensitive zone.

Against a towering backdrop of junked furniture, which looks as if someone had collapsed the “Defenestration” building on itself and dragged it into the EXIT on Taylor, Michael Uy Kelly as Captain Gary Jimenez extols the virtues of an oft-maligned district. “The Tenderloin is the best part of the gut,” he grabs his own to demonstrate, “and it’s the best part of the city. It could be.”

Jimenez was one of 40-plus neighborhood fixtures to have been interviewed by a group of actors involved in The Cutting Ball Theater’s latest work, a documentary-style play called “Tenderloin,” and like most of the voices who made it into the play, his is sympathetic to his surroundings. Kelly, who also plays a trans bartender, an elderly gentleman named “Nappy Chin,” and a former Vietnamese “boat person,” is similarly sympathetic to his subjects, imbuing each with a quiet dignity and an almost stoic streak of optimism.

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