SF Guardian Cries “Long Live SF Theater Pub”

In addition to Nicole Gluckstern’s short review below, critic Sam Stander praised San Francisco Theater Pub’s casual, freewheeling adaptation of Ubu Roi last Monday. The full article, which can be viewed at the Guardian site here is reprinted below.


Sam Stander – San Francisco Bay Guardian – July 22

SF Theater Pub’s one-night-only presentation of Alfred Jarry’s bawdy classic Ubu Roi this past Monday felt like nothing so much as a group of dedicated friends putting on a show because they thought it just might turn out awesome. The staged reading took place at SF lounge Café Royale, a pleasant venue with couches and balcony seats as well as standing room that rendered the production all the more intimate.

The play is a deliberately sick-and-twisted piss-take on Macbeth, eviscerated of all its pathos and stuffed full of crap, and the Theater Pub performers, as well as director Bennett Fisher’s new translation, seemed entirely tuned in to its irreverence. Greedy, grubby protagonist Pere Ubu was played with alternating witlessness and pomposity by Sam Leichter, but the most successful comic performer on display was Catherine Lardas, who delivered a positively Oliver Hardy-esque Mere Ubu. The herald Pile (Warden Lawlor) stood above the other actors on the balcony, reciting increasingly complicated titles for Pere Ubu as he continued to murder and annex the positions of several other noblemen.

Music and sound effects from DJ Wait What were evocative of old radio plays, and the minimal use of props such as a giant plastic sword generated a few laughs. The show certainly felt like a one-off event, with all the actors reading their lines from music stands, but this only added to the sense of comeraderie and fun.

Besides the fact that SF Theater Pub’s events are free (a donation at the door will get you a raffle ticket!), their most attractive feature is their apparent modernist sensibility when selecting plays. They’ve already put on Václav Havel’s Audience and an assortment of Greek tragedies. They’re following up Ubu with a collection of short local plays under the heading “The Pint Sized Plays.” Their blog then announces a series of Beckett shorts for September, though on Monday night they claimed September would hold some Oscar Wilde performances.

Most fascinatingly to this reporter, they’ll be celebrating Halloween with a series of radio play-style adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories. There’s nothing I love more than hearing people say “eldritch” and “gibbous” out loud, so those should be jolly good fun. This diverse roster of plays, as well as a genuine sense of joy, means SF Theater Pub are ones to watch in the coming months. Especially since watching them is totally free!

Massive Crowd and Pleasing Press for Ubu Roi

UBU ROI marked our second most well attended event after our first performance of CYCLOPS. Old faces and new laughed as Pere and Mere Ubu climbed to the top and dropped ignobly down again, savored new material by our guest DJ Wait What, and marveled at the bar’s new stage lights. It was a time and a half. But don’t take our word for it. Here is what the San Francisco Bay Guardian said about the event:

“In the crowded Café Royale, loss of life, limb, and the last tattered shreds of (in)dignity were being explored by San Francisco Theatre Pub with their free staged reading of “Ubu Roi” — adapted by company member Bennett Fisher. As the oafish would-be-king of Poland played by Sam Leichter cursed, spat, and clawed his way to the top, his power-hungry wife Mere Ubu (Catherine Lardas) gave the term Machiavellian a feminine touch as she urged him forward, then stood out of the way of his inglorious fall. Though it initially seemed that as many people came to hear the guest deejay (DJ Wait What) spin as to see the classic forerunner of absurdist theatre (overheard: “I think it’s about a king. It’s set in France.”), the café crowd soon became a cheering, catcalling, mass of enthusiastic participation. Directors of reading series take note: a spoonful of alcohol helps the medicine go down. And bartenders: a spoonful of Ubu can only help the alcohol sales go up.” – Nicole Gluckstern, San Francisco Bay Guardian

We are back at it again on August 16 with the Pint Sized Plays, so do not stray far.

‘Ubu Roi’ performs one night only Monday

For those of you eager for some more theater in a bar, Monday’s your one and only shot for the entire month of July. Shifting in a radical 180 degrees from the tone of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, we return this Monday with a reading of a new translation of Alfred Jarry’s UBU ROI by Theater Pub co-founder Bennett Fisher. With a morbidly comic spin on Macbeth, Jarry scandalized Parisian audiences to the point of rioting in 1896 when the play was first produced. With a live deejay, a raffle, and a highly talented cast, we hope to achieve the same level of healthy frenzy without so much destruction of property.

Ubu Roi performs Monday, July 19 at 8pm at the Cafe Royale (800 Post, at Leavenworth). Admission is free.

Wait What, Who? With Pere Ubu?

On July 19, deejay Wait What will be accompanying the performance of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Most likely, you’ll hear some of his music then, but for those of who mystified and intrigued, go here for a link off of his album The Notorious XX – a mash-up of tracks from The Notorious B.I.G. and The XX. Read more about this talented, up and coming artist at http://www.waitwhatmusic.com/ and keep checking back to learn more about the piece.

Ubu Roi performs once and only once on Monday, July 19 at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, at Leavenworth). Admission is free.

Oedipus and Ubu

Tonight, we are pleased to present the second installment of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Maryanne Olson. In this complex, subdued, character study of a fallen hero searching for a place to rest, Sophocles, with superb subtlety and nuance, hones in on all the intricacies, contradictions, petty pride, and unspeakable offense, that make the house of Oedipus so captivatingly dysfunctional. Curtain is at 8, but we hope you will arrive early and have a beer.

Sitting in our rehearsal yesterday, I was struck by how odd it seems that the beginning of Oedipus at Colonus feels a lot like the end of our July offering at San Francisco Theater Pub, Afred Jarry’s UBU ROI.

UBU ROI incited riots when it was performed in Paris in 1896. Audiences were scandalized by Jarry’s bawdy, nihilistic lampooning of power in excess. I was midway through my translation of the play when we read Stuart’s adaptation of four plays that make up THE THEBAN CHRONICLES in his living room one weekend, and I was struck by how much Pere Ubu resembles the thuggish characters of these plays: Polyneices, who is both naive and abrasive, Eteocles, who is unabashedly currupt, and Creon, a brute using the state as a shield for his own weaknesses.

Discovering that cutting barb, the inner tragedy nestled beneath the playfulness and clownishness of Jarry’s language, has done a great deal to inform my adaptation. UBU promises to be a spirited affair – boasting a host of wonderful comic actors and deejayed by Wait What, whose mash up album The Notorious XX, has received international critical acclaim (learn more at http://www.waitwhatmusic.com/) – but what makes the play so raucous the danger of showing oppressors, of any time and era, for what they really are – foolish, haughty, bullying, and juvenile.

As we move forward with this play and the last two plays of the series, Seven Against Thebes and Antigone, it is striking to see how nobility and power diverge. The humbled Oedipus and the gentle Theseus in Oedipus at Colonus convey more majesty than the warlike Polyneices or Creon. In Seven Against Thebes, Eurydice and the chorus show true bravery in decrying the war. Finally, in Antigone, perhaps the most famous portrait of power and justice, simple decency and humanitarianism proves to be a more forceful weapon than the edicts of the state. In UBU ROI, likewise, the only character worth sticking up for (arguably) is the one who speaks the least – Bougrelas, the rightful heir to the throne, who in his first line recognizes and condemns Pere Ubu for the idiot he is.

Originally, we conceived these two projects – THE THEBAN CHRONICLES and UBU ROI – as contrasting performances: one old and one modern, one tragic and one comic, etc. The more I get into both, the more they seem like two lenses looking at the same object.

-Bennett Fisher and San Francisco Theater Pub

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES continues Monday, June 21 at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, San Francisco, at Leavenworth) with a reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Maryanne Olson. Parts III and IV, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, directed by Sara Judge, and Sophocles’ Antigone directed by Amy Clare Tasker, perform June 28 and 29 respectively. All shows begin at 8pm, and are free to attend.

San Francisco Theater Pub Announces Programming for June and July

Before AUDIENCE opened on Tuesday night, San Francisco Theater Pub co-founder Stuart Bousel introduced our June and July programming for our 2010 season. We will be announcing the rest of the season, which features new material every month of the year, bit by bit before performances of AUDIENCE, so be sure to attend to hear the new first.

For June, Stuart Bousel has conceived THE THEBAN CHRONICLES – a four part dramatic reading “mini-series” centered on the House of Thebes, starting with the banishment of Oedipus and ending with the death of Antigone. Drawn from four classic Greek plays by Euripides (The Phoenician Women), Sophocles (Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone), and Aeschylus (Seven Against Thebes), the reading will showcase a compelling four part drama, that honors its three literary sources and their distinct voices. By condensing each episode to less than an hour, we strive to create a compelling, character driven narrative that will appeal to all audiences. The scope of the project is impressive: thirty actors, four directors, four nights in three weeks. If you are a lover of the classics, this is not an event to miss. If classics are not quite your thing, what better venue to change your mind about Greek theater than a bar?


June 15: Phoenician Women

June 21: Oedipus at Colonus

June 28: Seven Against Thebes

June 29: Antigone

We are following THE THEBAN CHRONICLES with a slightly more comic take on ambition, power, and dysfunctional marriages – a staged reading of Alfred Jarry’s masterpiece UBU ROI on Monday, July 19, adapted and directed by Bennett Fisher. Considered by many to be the godfather of Absurdism, Jarry scandalized Parisian audiences in 1896 with a madcap reboot of Macbeth. Over a century later, the play has lost none of its edge, and it’s schoolboy humor send-up of greed and gluttony still resonates.

We are excited that both projects will allow us to expand our creative pool to encompass more bay area theater artists. Check back with us soon about information regarding auditions and other ways to get involved. If you’re interested in being a part, we highly recommend that you come talk to us after a show.

-Victor Carrion, Stuart Bousel, Bennett Fisher, and Brian Markley