Ilana Walder-Biesanz

Ilana is an Associate Product Manager at Yahoo! and a freelance theater and opera critic. She holds a B.S. in Engineering from Olin College and an M.Phil. in European Literature from the University of Cambridge. She currently reviews for Stark Insider, Bachtrack, and San Francisco Classical Voice. [Web Site]
Come From Away San Francisco Review

‘Come From Away’: A musical gift to SF audiences

I don’t usually cry throughout a show. At the climactic tragic moment perhaps, but not all the way through. Watching Come From Away (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, San Francisco), I had tears streaming down my face for 100 solid minutes. This is the kind of story – and storytelling...
Cal Performances - Ibsen's An Enemy of the People Schaubühne, Berlin

Ibsen, with a side of local groupthink

Is truth more important than democracy? In Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, a doctor discovers that a spa town’s water source is polluted. He makes enemies as he tries to spread the news, which is sure to hurt the town economy. The attacks make him realize that the problem...
SWEAT Theater Review - ACT San Francisco

Blood, ‘Sweat’ and Tears at the ACT

The world of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat (American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco) is unfamiliar to many coastal theater-goers (certainly to me). It’s a steel town where factory jobs are passed down through the generations. Most people go straight from the factory to the line, where hard work is rewarded with...
Theater Review: RICHARD III at African-American Shakespeare Company, San Francisco

Murder should be more fun: ‘Richard III’ at the African-American Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare’s Richard III is sometimes classified as a history, sometimes as a tragedy. The political subject matter is historical. The plot is tragedy-like in its high drama and high body count. The play lacks a tragic hero, though. Instead, we get a tragic villain: the manipulative Duke of Gloucester...
Soft Power Theater Review - The Curran, San Francisco

The progressive dream of ‘Soft Power’

On November 29, 2015, the “most famous American Chinese playwright” was stabbed in the neck. That’s David Henry Hwang the real, award-winning playwright, and also David Henry Hwang the character in his own play Soft Power (currently at the SF Curran), and also David Henry Hwang the character in the...
Quixote Nuevo - Cal Shakes Review by Ilana Walder Biesanz

Don Quixote rides (a tricycle) again at Cal Shakes

His quest is pointless, and often destructive. But he is fiercely loved by his family, neighbors, former students, and squire. May we all be so blessed.
San Francisco Theater Review: ME AND MY GIRL at 42nd Street Moon, San Francisco

Tap and Tomfoolery: Me and My Girl

It’s funny how two people can discover the same thing at once. Calculus. Oxygen. A neglected musical. Me and My Girl, hardly a household name even among connoisseurs of classic musical theater, is getting simultaneous revivals from 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco and Encores! in New York –...
The Color Purple - SHN Orpheum Theatre review by Ilana Walder-Biesanz

Star power makes The Color Purple bright

The women of The Color Purple have unimaginably hard lives. They’re subject to an unrelenting series of rape, abuse, and racism. The musical (currently on tour to the SHN Orpheum) is touching and uplifting in spite of that, because it’s the story of how they overcome all those forces...
Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3 at American Conservatory Theater, San Francsisco

Searching for freedom with Father Comes Home from the Wars

Midway through Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3, at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater in San Francisco), a Confederate colonel sets his Union prisoner Smith guessing his slave Hero’s price. The callous discussion of a human being’s dollar value horrifies Smith (and the audience), but to...