Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Rhino season opens


Andre San-Chez plays Bradford and Charles Peoples III is Pink in Kheven LaGrone's "The Legend of Pink," opening Theatre Rhino's new season. Photo: Steven Ho
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The mean streets of Oakland, Australia's harsh Outback, and that desert pockmarked with cement ponds known as Palm Springs are among the destinations in Theatre Rhinoceros' 40th season. The season includes two world premieres, one of which will open the season this week.

Kheven LaGrone's "The Legend of Pink" (running through Sept. 30) launches the season at the Gateway Theatre (the new name of the Eureka Theatre). The setting is West Oakland in 1989, where drug dealing has created a war zone, and where a luscious drag queen named Pink thinks it her mission to become a diva who can spread fabulousness amid the poverty and violence. She's found a star on which to hook her wagon in a flashy young stranger who rightly rings alarm bells for everyone else. This is the first full-length play for the Oakland writer, whose other credits include journalism, political activism, and arts curating.

When Theatre Rhino produced its first play in 1977, there was likely an unknown virus already incubating in many of the earliest theatergoers. Soon enough, it had a name, but because the virus was so profoundly displaying itself in the gay community, many politicians and the mainstream press found silence the best approach. In "The Normal Heart," first produced in 1985, playwright and early AIDS activist Larry Kramer upbraided this powerful silence, while not ignoring his own stridency and the calls for abstinence that pushed away friends and colleagues. Theatre Rhino is finally producing the play (Nov. 3-25) that helped changed the way a frightening new disease was viewed outside the groups it immediately affected.

Former city supervisor, assemblyman, and occasional standup comic Tom Ammiano will help Rhino regulars ring in the new year with his solo show (Dec. 31). First seen at the Marsh last year, "Mincing Words" is both sober and flip about his years as an elected official, and the challenge of being taken seriously as a gay man, partly because of a distinctively high voice that might well be described as – on Ammiano's word – mincing.

Another world premiere will carry Theatre Rhino into 2018, and it comes from a familiar source. Rhino's Executive Director John Fisher can be counted on to present one of his new plays every season, and the title of the latest is "Transitions" (Feb. 23-March 17). Its description suggests a strong tie to current political affairs: "A transsexual, a Russian president, and an American president are the stars of this story about gender and sexuality in the world of geopolitics."

"Priscilla Queen of the Desert" scored a big hit for Rhino several months back, so the tricked-out old school bus will be back for an encore road trip (June 2-July 1). This is the musical stage adaptation of the 1994 movie about a trio of drag performers making their adventure-filled way across Australia for a gig at a remote resort. The songs of different vintages and styles – but mostly disco – are shoehorned with varying force into the plot. But the WTF costumes deserve their own star billing.

The Five Lesbian Brothers last performed together in 2005, and the play that the collective produced on that occasion proved to be the most broadly acclaimed in its 20-year history. Rhino is closing its season with the regional premiere of "Oedipus at Palm Springs" (July 12-21). The plays starts out as a conventional comedy of two lesbian couples vacationing together in Palm Springs, but the title gives a clue that a disturbing twist will arrive before the final curtain.

Individual tickets to the season-opener "The Legend of Pink" are available as well full-season subscriptions. Call (415) 552-4100 or go to


New York alt-cabaret star Dandy Darkly is presenting his latest surreal creation as part of the SF Fringe Fest. Photo: Stuart Liam McConville

Fringe finale

The SF Fringe Fest is in its final week, but because of the rotating schedule of performances, most shows are still available for viewing in the three venues within Exit Theatre. This is a non-juried festival, with a lottery used to assemble dozens of performances. Culling from the brief descriptions of the productions, or maybe just an intriguing title, here is a sampling of what's available through Sept. 23.

"Submitted for Your Approval" takes its title from Rod Serling's tagline to introduce each episode of "The Twilight Zone." Written by Sinohui Hinojosa, this trio of interconnected short plays is a modern take on the fantastic and surreal tales told in the 1960s series.

K.S. Haddock's "Hitler in the Green Room" is a dark musical comedy that takes place the night before the 1933 Nuremberg Rally. With Hitler struck deathly ill, an impostor must be found so the show can go on. But the only choice is a drunk, gay, Jewish cabaret singer.

Kelly Nesbitt's "Poonstruck: New Frontiers in Vaginal Consciousness" asks us to imagine a metaphysical cross between Archie Bunker, Dr. Ruth, and Carol Burnett on cosmic Viagra in this satire tapping into the New Age zeitgeist.

C.J. Hopkins' "screwmachine/eyecandy or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Big Bob" takes place during a live broadcast of a popular game show in which married couples compete for prizes as the early merriment turns to a studio of horror.

In "Dandy Darkly's Myth Mouth," the New York cult-cabaret star explores themes of religion, addiction, social media, sex, and death while using such characters as space-pup Laika, a junkie Persephone, and Cha-Cha the Caveman.

There are family-friendly productions in the fest, but none of the above happen to be in that category. For the full schedule, go to


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