The old Maoist exhortation “Let a thousand flowers bloom” could easily apply to the San Francisco theater scene, where theatre companies emerge from universities, split off from other companies or emerge fully formed, as if from Zeus’s head. Just as you were saying “What ever happened to The Easily Distracted Theatre?” another has taken its place. Hopefully, Do It Live won’t join the list of theatre has-beens any time soon. Founded in 2011 by William Hand, Shay Wisniewski and Kenny Toll, Do it Live is on their third season. If their current show, The Golden Dragon, is any indication, we need this company around. Their combination of new works, eminently reasonable ticket prices and an experimental spirit give new life to the theatre experience. It’s precisely companies like this that keep San Francisco such an incredibly vital place for theatre.
The Golden Dragon is one of the better scripts I’ve seen in in few years. The dialogue carries a rhythm of it’s own, integrating stage directions (“short pause”) and other set descriptions. This might seem like a forced trick, but in a rotating cast in which older male actors play young females (and vice versa), the additional text reinforces the rhythm and underscores the irony that might get lost in the frenetic pace. Playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig is relatively unknown in the US, which makes this production of his work (translated by David Tushingham), all the more interesting.
The Golden Dragon involve a half dozen different stories, all taking place in the Golden Dragon restaurant or in the apartments above it. In addition to the story of the immigrant kitchen staff, this Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese greasy spoon serves as the jetway to other tales of a young guy confronted with a pregnancy he wants no part of, an older man who wants to be young, and an ant and a cricket who morph into a German shop keeper and a Thai sex slave, flight attendants, dead bodies over bridges and an entirely Chinese family living in the hole of a tooth. Tangentially, they all work together to speak to globalization issues, but Schimmelpfennig treads lightly on the politics, letting you draw your own conclusions.
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The Golden Dragon is performed at The ACT Costume Shop, just across from the Orpheum and adjacent to the ACT costume rentals. Founder Will Hand kindly explained that Do it Live was fortunate to get this location because ACT was obligated to provide space for other nonprofits. This relatively new 49-seat venue is vaguely reminiscent of the old Dragon Theatre before they moved to Redwood City. It’s the perfect location for this type of work.
The Golden Dragon will run through September 28th.