Independent Theater Reviews for the San Francisco Bay Area



Alexandra Garfield uses her life-long love of theater, fifteen years of experience on stage and behind the scenes and two journalism degrees to bring you the best information about theater in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Recent Reviews

December 9, 2015

Heart-wrenching with a sprinkling of hope and a healthy serving of laughter, Burning Bluebeard intertwines two stories in one spine-chilling show.

Actors portraying actors from the infamous 1903 Iroquois Theater fire attempt to finish their performance of the holiday pantomime, Mr. Bluebeard. Only this time, they hope it won’t end in another tragedy.

The show is a deep narrative dive into the 1903 matinee fire, with the performers returning to finish the show amid the ruins the day after it took place. The performers explain that a spark from the artificial moonlight  started the blaze.  The lack of viable emergency exits, exit doors that opened inward, blocked shut as the panicked crowd packed against them, an...

December 2, 2015

You may not think that a musical can start out with six deaths and still be uplifting and funny without negating the tragedy of loss.

But Ride the Cyclone manages that emotional feat. This vaudevillian musical from Chicago Shakespeare Theater keeps you guessing until the very end.

A broken roller coaster track frames the stage in a black-box theater on the top floor of Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The sharp chemical smell of atomized mineral oil saturates the air as mist wafts from fog machines throughout the atmospheric performance.

Bittersweet and uproariously funny, Ride the Cyclone forces audiences to consider life and mortality. The highs and lows of life swirl together in one musical number af...

December 2, 2015

Set sail with the Lookingglass Theater for the best stage production of Treasure Island you may ever see.

The swashbuckling adventure and shocking betrayals sizzling through Robert Louis Stevenson’s best-known novel, come to life on the stage at the Water Tower.

Classic characters like Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins leap off the stage and into the parts of your brain that still hold onto childhood fantasies.

This impeccably staged and performed show ushers you into a good, old-fashioned adventure. It hauls you aboard a pirate ship to swing from the rigging and hunt for buried treasure.

The action carries you along despite all the reasons why this novel is difficult to adapt to the stage. But Lookingglass Theate...

November 25, 2015

You Can’t Take It With You takes us back to a depression-era classic that feels all too relevant today.

The show centers around the Sycamore family who live their lives on the premise of compulsively pursuing happiness. This eccentric bunch does everything from practicing ballet while baking to making fireworks in the basement. Matriarch Penelope Vanderhof Sycamore, played by Penny Slusher, writes plays because a typewriter was delivered to the house by mistake.

The play’s drama arises when the least eccentric member of the family, Alice, played by Lucy Carapetyan, brings home her high-society fiancé, Tony, played by Bernie Balbot, to meet the motley family.

Although Tony is instantly accepting of the Sycamores and v...

November 4, 2015

The trees are bare and shopping malls are crazy. Snow is brewing in the clouds and sugarplum fairies are pirouetting in store windows.

So take a break and go to the theater. Find that perfect holiday show that the whole family can enjoy – a show that won’t make the kids fall asleep and won’t get your uncle started on his Santa conspiracy theory.

Show tickets make great gifts, too. And, luckily, Chicago is jam-packed with great performances this season for everyone on your Christmas list and almost any day open in your schedule. From Uncle Scrooge to Tiny Tim, the classic characters are there to entertain you. As Medill Reports’ gift to your family, here is your holiday show guide for great off-loop theater this...

November 2, 2015

For a fun, historical and Chicago-centric musical, consider checking out The Christmas Schooner at the Mercury Theater.

The musical tells the story of Peter Stossel and his family who brought the German tradition of the Christmas tree to Chicago. After receiving a letter from his cousin about missing the Tanenbaum, Peter decides to brave the treacherous winter storms on Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees to the German immigrants in Chicago from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“It’s a story that anyone can relate to. It’s about love, devotion, family, promise and the power of the holiday spirit,” says actress, Brianna Borger who plays Alma Stossel, the mother of the family.

This is a musical that celebrates all f...

November 2, 2015

If you’re looking for a new twist on a familiar classic that your kids will enjoy as much as you do, consider The Nutcracker from the House Theater.

This play features Clara, the Rat King and, of course, the Nutcracker himself. The biggest change is the Nutcracker’s identity. The Nutcracker is painted to look like Clara’s older brother Fritz who went away to war and never came home.

As Clara’s family struggles to embrace the Christmas spirit without their son, Clara imagines a rich world of imagination. At night, Fritz as the Nutcracker and other toys come to life to help restore the Christmas spirit to the house.

This play is perfect for families with young children. Songs like “Let’s Make Cookies” may not have...

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