In San Francisco, tradition has it that the fall arts season begins with the gala opening nights of the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera. This year, the double-header season-opening performances are Sept. 3, with superstar soprano Audra McDonald performing with the symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, and three nights later, on Sept. 6, with the opera Mephistopheles (music and libretto by Arrigo Boito), starring Ramón Vargas, Patricia Racette, and Ildar Abdrazakov, at the War Memorial Opera House.
For me, though, the season began last week, at Marin Theatre Company, in Mill Valley. The play was Good People, the “most produced play” in the country at the moment, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. Frances McDormand played the lead on Broadway, and I would have loved to see her in it; but frankly, I don’t know if she could have been very much better than Amy Resnick. In Mill Valley, it’s Resnick who plays Margy, a working-class single mother with a disabled adult daughter. She and her friends—all excellent actresses—are “Southies,” from the same dead-end section of Boston that Ray Donovan and his brothers, dad, and wife come from, if you’ve been watching that new series on Showtime.
Anyway, Margy has just lost her poor-paying job at the Dollar Store, and after the terrible time she had landing that one, she doesn’t have much hope of finding another job, at least soon enough to pay the rent. So when she hears about a high school flame who made it out of the hood, became a doctor, and recently set up practice in (of course) a higher-rent part of the city, she is persuaded to ask him for work—thus setting up dramatic conflicts of class, commitment to others, and what it means to be a good person. The acting is so good—I scarcely recognized Mark Anderson Phillips, whom I’d last seen at MTC in Waiting for Godot, as the doctor, Mikey—you feel as if you are somehow invisible in the various rooms, watching real people interacting. Highly recommended.
Here are a couple of other things I’m looking forward to seeing in the next few weeks:
Geoff Hoyle in his latest one-man show, Geezer. Hoyle is a Bay Area treasure, an amazing physical comedian and fine actor. I’ve seen him in just about everything he’s done since I moved to the Bay Area in the early ’80s. This show is no doubt the most personal. As the title suggests, it’s about aging, and I understand from the ecstatic reviews when the play first opened, in 2011, that Hoyle will show us his father, a typesetter in Yorkshire, who died at 60; the Latin teacher who set Hoyle on the path to performing; the mime master Étienne Decroux, with whom Hoyle studied in Paris; as well as moments in his later life: with the Bay Area’s famed-in-its-day Pickle Family Circus, on Broadway in The Lion King, with his three children, one of whom grew up to become a splendid solo performer himself. I’ve seen Dan Hoyle twice at my local Throckmorton Theatre, also in Mill Valley, and was just hoping his dad would bring Geezer there at some point. And he is, on Sept. 14; yay.
Another former Broadway play, soon to be performed at one of my other favorite Bay Area theater companies, is Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang. The play, which won Durang his first Tony this summer, for best play, opens at Berkeley Rep on Sept. 20. The New York Times called it a “sunny new play about gloomy people…a loving rejection of pretty much everything Chekhov stands for in the popular imagination,” which sounds good to me. You can depend on an excellent production of pretty much anything at the Rep these days.
SF Symphony Opening Night Gala: Sept. 3, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F., 415.864.6000, sfsymphony.org; Mephistopheles: Sept. 6, 11, 14, 17, 20, 24, 29, and Oct. 2, War Memorial Opera House, 310 Van Ness Ave., S.F., 415.864.3330, sfopera.org; Good People: through Sept. 15, Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415.388.5208, marintheatre.org; Geezer: Sept. 14, Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, 415.383.9600, throckmortontheatre.org, and Sept. 18-Oct. 19 (Wed., Thurs., and Sat.), The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F., 415.282.3055, themarsh.org; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Sept. 20-Oct. 20, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley, 510.647.2949, berkeleyrep.org.