Ilana Walder-Biesanz

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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]
Theater Review: Timon of Athens at Cutting Ball, San Francisco

Shakespeare’s obscure ‘Timon’ sears at Cutting Ball

Shakespeare completionists surely took note when Cutting Ball Theater announced Timon of Athens as part of their 2017–18 season. It’s a difficult one to check off your see-them-all list: a few dozen Hamlets and Macbeths get produced for every time someone is brave enough to mount this “problem play.”...
The Effect at San Francisco Playhouse

The Effect‘s side effects: laughter and angst

How can we trust in love if it’s reducible to brain chemistry?
Vietgone Review - ACT Strand San Francisco

Romance, rap and a road trip for refugees of ‘Vietgone’

Ilana Walder-Biesanz reviews Vietgone, American Conservatory Theater's (A.C.T.) latest production, now playing at The Strand in San Francisco. Humor is not what you’d expect from a play about the Vietnam War, but Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone consistently had the whole audience in stitches. Inspired by his own family history (“Any resemblance...
Theater Review: WIDOWERS' HOUSES at Aurora, Berkeley

A nineteenth-century housing crisis at Aurora Theatre

Widowers’ Houses is, by Shaw’s own categorization, a “play unpleasant.” No one on the stage is remotely likeable. Certainly not Blanche (Megan Trout), the spoiled young lady with a temper so violent that she beats her maid. Her on-and-off fiancé Trench (Dan Hoyle) is perpetually slack-jawed, a Bertie Wooster without...
Custom Made Theatre Review - Man of La Mancha

Fighting Windmills at Custom Made Theatre

In Review: Man of La Mancha at Custom Made Theatre Co., San Francisco. Don Quixote has no shortage of adaptations – cinematic, balletic, theatrical, and operatic – and all draw on different aspects of Cervantes’ famous novel. The 1964 musical Man of La Mancha shows Cervantes awaiting trial by the...
Watch on the Rhine - Berkeley Repertory Theatre - Review

Fighting fascism at Berkeley Rep: ‘Watch on the Rhine’ (Review)

Lead photo: (front row, l to r) Jonah Horowitz (Bodo Muller), Emma Curtin (Babette Muller), and Elijah Alexander (Kurt Muller); (back row, l to r) Sarah Agnew (Sara Muller) and Silas Sellnow (Joshua Muller) in Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine at Berkeley Rep. It makes sense that Lillian Hellman’s 1941...
The Lion in Winter - Custom Made Theatre San Francisco Review

A campy Christmas at the Custom Made Theatre Company

The Lion in Winter is a family drama with stakes that make Lear look like a petty squabble. It’s 1183, and King Henry II of England rules a good chunk of Europe. His three sons all want the crown—and the hand of Alais, the French princess who is their...
The Eva Trilogy Review - Magic Theatre, San Francisco

A new Irish epic at Magic Theatre

Multi-part epics are always intimidating. They’re a big commitment to make in advance, and there’s a sense of failure if you don’t see them through. No one wants to be the quitter who only saw Voyage (in Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia) or Das Rheingold (in Wagner’s Ring cycle)....

A French call to #resist

It’s been less than a year since the U.S. election, and theatergoers are surely already tired of plays that tackle authoritarianism. While Camus’ State of Siege (presented by Cal Performances and performed by the touring French company Théâtre de la Ville) fits into that category, it’s different enough not...
Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit - Review

A very funny rabbi(t) at Berkeley Rep

Have you ever confused a rabbi with a rabbit? Me, neither, but it seems like a plausible mistake in Daniel Handler’s new play Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit, at Berkeley Rep. Daniel Handler (best known by his young adult fiction pen name,...