Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT:'I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco' & 'Darwin in Malibu'--Two with Bob Ernst ...

Ken Bullock
Friday January 27, 2017 - 11:07:00 AM

—Geoffrey Pond, artistic director and co-founder of Berkeley's Subterranean Shakespeare Theatre Presents, has taken that alternative song to that tune written in Brooklyn in 1952 and made famous by Tony Bennett's 1962 single—but here we're talking about Tommy Wolf's 'I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco,' popularized by Carmen McRae in 1968 and later by Nancy Wilson, but first recorded by Cannonball Adderley in 1965 with the still-great Ernie Andrews singing it—and made it the title of his first solo show, one of the few things Geoff hasn't tried onstage or behind the scenes in his long local career ... 

Directed by Robert Ernst of the fabled Berkeley troupe the Blake Street Hawkeyes, 'I'm Always Drunk ... ' is based on the writings of Mark Twain (his impressions of 1860s SF and his first public lecture at the Academy of Music on Pine Street), Jack London's description of the '06 Earthquake & Fire, Jack Kerouac at the 1955 Six Gallery reading (Ginsberg's "Howl" first read aloud, in part) and the public birth of the Beats, plus vinettes from the work of Gary Kamiya. It's Geoff's tribute to the town in which he's contributed to the theater and music scenes for decades, a place he feels, like so many others, is losing its old, signature, sometimes anarchic charm he's seeking to invoke. 

Fridays & Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 7 through February 19 at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, between Powell & Mason in downtown San Francisco. Tickets at the door on a sliding scale: $25-$20 or in advance: Info at 276-3871. 

—Indra's Net's staging of Crispin Whittal's fantasy of 'Darwin in Malibu' has closed at the City Club, another local production featuring Bob Ernst, on stage in this one as Darwin's sometimes irascible cohort in the polemical battle for 19th century minds over Natural Selection, joining Darwin (affable George Killingsworth) at his anachronistic place of retirement in latterday Malibu, attended by beachgirl and banana smoothie specialist Sarah (Leandra Ramm), the three then encountered by Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford (a genially eclesiastic Stuart Hall), who wants to reopen the controversy, but—more importantly—save his antagonists' souls. 

The troupe's co-founder and artistic director Bruce Coughlin directed this game cast—and it's always a pleasure to see those longtime musical collaborators onstage with their partner Hal Hughes, who was playing and singing at moments throughout, not to mention the contributions to Bay Area theater they (and Stu Hall) have made, all together in this curious play from England, sometimes more puzzling than enigmatic, with the Victorian gentlemen speaking in our own, profane vernacular without comment—and where Huxley's nephew Aldous, long a denizen of Hollywood and hero to bohemian culture on the Coast and elsewhere for 'Brave New World' and 'The Doors of Perception' (the title from William Blake, later the inspiration for the more famous name of an LA rock group due to its subject matter, psychedelia), is never even mentioned on the balmy oceanfront set. 

But there's a reason the unlikely foursome are together and no-one else appears—something they share, Leandra Ramm's Sarah explaining it ere the end, at a moment when perhaps another play could start, just as the Victorians have begun to undo their tight collars in the SoCal sun, a spot where that often-ambiguous term "Evolution" has been so often qualified, since its coinage, by another word, sometimes arrayed against it: "Spiritual."