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Author: Jeff Dunn

“It’s a Wonderful Life”—Comfortable Music with a Moral, at S.F. Opera

“It’s a Wonderful Life”—Comfortable Music with a Moral, at S.F. Opera

Jake Heggie’s Feel-Good Opera Packs a Lesson by Jeff Dunn Fine singing, a thin adaptation, tune-starved but inoffensive music, and an awkward set characterize San Francisco Opera’s third delivery from composer Jake Heggie, after successes with Dead Man Walking in 2000 and Moby-Dick in 2012. True to Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is ready to jump off a bridge because his savings and loan bank is about to fail. Bailey’s friends and loved ones…

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“Girls of the Golden West” Comes Home Empty-Handed, at S.F. Opera

“Girls of the Golden West” Comes Home Empty-Handed, at S.F. Opera

John Adams’ Premiere More Ken Burns than Ken Branagh by Jeff Dunn Why do I go to opera? For the same reason that tenor Andrea Bocelli does: “… because opera offers such deep sensations that they will remain in a heart for a lifetime.” Excellent singing, staging, and pit work distinguish San Francisco Opera’s new production, John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West, about the California Gold Rush. Unfortunately, composer Adams and librettist Peter Sellars each finds his own way…

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“Luna Gale”: An Education in Social Work, at Aurora Theatre, Berkeley

“Luna Gale”: An Education in Social Work, at Aurora Theatre, Berkeley

Rebecca Gilman’s Documentary Honesty Hits Home  by Jeff Dunn Are you considering a career in social work? Want to be a hero? Well, you will get a whiff of reality at Rebecca Gilman’s harrowing, almost documentary-style “Luna Gale” at the Aurora Theatre. There, I followed a social worker as she tries to do her job in 14 scenes, each with a place and time projected over the stage, like a “Law and Order” procedural. Each scene depicts an interview immersed…

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“In the Next Room, or the vibrator play”: Funny and Profound, at Pear Theatre, Mountain View

“In the Next Room, or the vibrator play”: Funny and Profound, at Pear Theatre, Mountain View

Sarah Ruhl’s Vision Resonates in Caroline Clark’s Staging by Jeff Dunn Sarah Ruhl’s humorous and poignant play seems to be about quaint, yet effective 19th-century sexual vibrators. Later, we realize that the machines she depicts are cunning stand-ins—symbols for the arts themselves and how they stimulate our senses. There’s a lot of art, artifice, and stimulation going on in “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play.” Pear Theatre’s director Caroline Clark—and two especially mesmerizing performances by Ellen Dunphy and…

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