Wild ‘Vietgone’ returns for San Jose race

Opera theater

There’s a lot to see and hear on the Bay Area stages this weekend. Here is a partial overview.

On stage: ‘Vietgone’, Marsh Solo Fest, ‘Asylum’

Here are three shows theatergoers should check out.

“Vietgon”: If you think of a play about Vietnamese refugees trying to make it in 1970s America, you think of another Vietnamese refugee in a different play. “Vietgone,” Qui Nguyen’s creative hip-hop romantic comedy, is full of sharp, bawdy humor and pointed observations on American politics and culture. The play, which came to San Francisco in 2018, is enjoying a revival at the City Lights Theater in San Jose, directed by Jeffrey Lo.

Details: Until April 24; City Lights Theater, San Jose; proof of vaccination required and wearing a mask compulsory in the theater; $23-25; cltc.org.

Marsh goes global: The Marsh performance space, which has remained incredibly active with streaming content during the dark days when the pandemic interrupted live shows, offers its second all-digital MarshStream International Solo Fest, a series of virtual performances from around the world. The more than 30 live-streamed performances cover a wide range of topics, organizers say, including “motherhood, communist spies, donuts, pandemic surgical mask supply shortages, meditation, YouTube thrills, Church of Scientology and triathlons, plus personal stories from India, Copenhagen, Iraq, South Korea and more.

Details: March 25-27; all shows are free but reservations are required and donations are required; themarsh.org.

“Escape the Asylum”: Don’t let the title scare you away. This production from Berkeley’s Central Works stage company is a sequel of sorts to its 2019 hit “The Victorian Ladies Detective Collective,” a sharp feminist comedy about a trio of London sleuths. The new show, also written by Patricia Milton, finds the trio investigating why a famous explorer was committed to a mental hospital by her husband.

Details: Until April 17; the Berkeley City Club; proof of vaccination required and wearing a mask compulsory in the theater; $22 to $40; centralworks.org.

— Randy McMullen, staff member

The 1970 Alice Neel portrait ‘Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd’ of the New York performer, writer and artist and associate of Andy Warhol Curtis (right) and his companion Redd, is on display at the de Young Museum. (Estate of Alice Neel/Cleveland Museum of Art/San Francisco Fine Arts Museums).

“People First” at de Young

“I paint to try to reveal the struggle, the tragedy and the joy of living,” Alice Neel told an interviewer when she was 50 years into her career as an artist. She didn’t slow down, or waver, from her radical realistic portrayals.

“People come first,” she said.

This is the theme and title of a traveling retrospective of paintings, drawings and watercolors organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, now at the de Young Museum. It covers six decades of Neel’s life and vividly displays what the museum director calls his “uncompromising humanism”.

Neel (1900-1984) was born in Pennsylvania, attended art school in Philadelphia, and later moved to New York. The city and its inhabitants were his subjects. A lifelong social activist, she painted her Spanish Harlem neighbors, a door-to-door salesman who was a Holocaust survivor, and cross-dressing artists in Andy Warhol’s circle. Plus friends, family and lovers – sometimes in the form of full-length nudes.

Known for her compulsive honesty, Neel did not paint portraits to flatter her subjects. And like the artist, many of his subjects seem provocative. At the opening of the exhibit in New York, a reviewer said that the people Neel portrayed would “dare to love them”.

Details: “Alice Neel: People Come First” through July 10 at the de Young Museum, San Francisco; hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; $13 to $28; fromyoungmuseum.org.

— Robert Taylor, correspondent

Make ‘Happy’ with Pocket Opera

Pocket Opera, the charming and cheerful little chamber opera company from San Francisco, gets very light and frothy for its season opener this Sunday afternoon at the Berkeley Hillside Club. “The Merry Widow”, the 1905 Viennese operetta that brought composer Franz Lehar both fame and fortune, revolves around the fabulously wealthy Anna Glawari of Paris, recently bereft of a husband and the object of amorous attentions from almost every guy around.

The Pocket Opera production, performed, as always, in late founder Donald Pippin’s witty English translation with a small chamber ensemble, stars Jennifer Ashworth in the title role and Orson Van Gay II as his recurring love, Count Danilo. Expect some heady waltz music in this one, folks.

Details: 2 p.m. March 27, Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley; 2:30 p.m. April 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 2 p.m. April 10 at the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco; $25 to $69; www.pocketera.org.

– Bay Area News Foundation