The Mash-up goes cultural

Members of the ensemble of The Tosca Project (from left: Nol Simonse, Peter Anderson, Sara Hogrefe, Pascal Molat) dance the Charleston during the roaring '20s. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The mash-up: mixing and matching from more than one source to create a new work of art.  Overlaying the video from a presidential press conference with the sound track of a Simpson’s episode, for instance, or intercutting different musicians playing the same piece.  It’s mostly a video exercise, adorning blogs and YouTube.

But now there’s a new, uptown high class version–ACT is collaborating with the San Francisco Ballet in the new work, The Tosca Project. Actors and dancers tell the story of long-time San Francisco landmark, the Tosca Cafe.

I’m an easy sell for pretty much any kind of innovative, experimental theater, and then I was lucky that I managed to convince Gail, and Micky and Linda Bandler, that it would be fun.  The promise of dinner across the street at Colibri before showtime sealed the deal.

Dinner was great, even if Micky didn’t let me have the chocolate pudding for dessert.  I always love the Pato in Pippian (duck in some kind of really great sauce), and Gail raved about the Carnitas.

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be writing about the theater.  Good food always sidetracks me.

The Tosca Project is the kind of production Gail always likes: short.  One act, 90 minutes and out the door.  Fortunately, they manage to pack a lot into that 90 minutes.

Essentially, it is just a review of the last 90 years of San Francisco history, as it played out across the floor of the cafe. The creators, ACT artistic director Carey Perloff and SF Ballet Choreographer Val Caniparoli, have fashioned a story regarding a bartender who loses his love in Italy and comes to America–and the ghost of the love follows him through time and space, tying the theme together.  There is no real dialog or exposition, you only derive this from the dance.  Since the dancers are great, you understand viscerally before you understand intellectually.

The play (dance?  ballet?  opus?) is a series of set pieces examining life in San Francisco over the past 90 years.  Each scene/piece/dance brings an era to life–the depression, the war, the beat era.  The same 10 performers take on all the roles, chameleoning into a series of deftly drawn characters who exemplify each era.

It was great, OK near great.  Considerably more dance than drama,  I liked all but one of the scenes.  Micky liked most of them.  Gail woke up at  5 that morning, and still stayed awake for almost all of it. Linda decided that she liked dance more than she thought she would.  Everyone cheered at the finale, and applauded all the way through the unique individual curtain bows.

The Tosca Project was supposed to close tomorrow night, but has been extended a week, until July 3.  Colibri is right across the street, and reservations are available on Opentable. Go have fun.

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