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Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of DANCE NATION at San Francisco Playhouse?

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Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of DANCE NATION at San Francisco Playhouse?

Dance Nation recently opened at San Francisco Playhouse and critics were in attendance! Find out what they had to say.

A 2019 Pulitzer Prize Finalist and winner of the 2015 Relentless Award as well as the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Dance Nation received its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York City in 2018.

Somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plots to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they'll claw their way to the top at Nationals in Tampa Bay. Dance Nation is play about ambition, growing up, and finding our souls in the heat of it all.

Dance Nation will be one of the most edgy and surprisingly dangerous plays we have produced,? said Bill English, Artistic Director. ?With a large cast of women of all ages portraying 13-year-old girls, it presents a multi-layered perspective on the joy and pain of becoming a woman, and shows us how we carry our past selves with us throughout our lives.

The cast includes Ed Berkeley, Ash Malloy*, Lauren Spencer*, Michelle Talgarow*, and Indiia Wilmott*.

Read the reviews below!


Jim Munson, BroadwayWorld: The production itself doesn't always serve the play as well as it should. Director Becca Wolff has not successfully guided her cast to find the right overall tone for the piece. Most everything seems too literal and stays on the surface. While it is heartening to see female actors of so many different body types and colors, as a group they seem to be struggling to find their characters. The most successful is Lauren Spencer as Ashlee, who is given perhaps the strongest monolog in the play, reveling in her bodacious curves. Krystle Piamonte is also affecting as Zuzu, the girl who most seriously questions her talent and path in life. Unfortunately, I was mystified by Indiaa Wilmott's performance as Amina, the designated star of the team. Amina seems to possess neither that special spark nor the cutthroat drive that would make her a standout. While watching the play, I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering if that was the point - i.e. that Amina is actually not in any way special, and is thus a commentary on our collective need to elevate someone, anyone, to a sort of queen bee status.

Lily Janiak, Datebook: Julia Brothers' facial expressions are worth the price of admission alone; sometimes she even develops a whole separate countenance just for the purpose of revving up into the next one, brow and cheek muscles getting a running start. She's Maeve, the youngest, and she hasn't yet learned that it's not OK to stare at someone mouth agape for minutes on end, or that others can tell if she peeks through eyes that are supposed to be closed.

Leslie Katz, SF Examiner: While it's understandable that Barron's aims for "Dance Nation" are to dig deep into psyches by going beyond what's naturalistic, still, the drama might resonate more with even more focus on the physicality of the dance practice, among the biggest factors in creating prize-winning performers.

Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli

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