Theater Review: EXTREME ACTS (The Marsh San Francisco)

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by Christopher Beale on May 12, 2024

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


A performance artist recounts the greatest moments of her career, from work that got her started, to the performance that almost killed her in the exciting and emotional two-act two-hander Extreme Acts by prolific playwright Lynne Kaufman, directed by Molly Noble.

The show, which opened last night at The Marsh San Francisco, concerns Sophia, who is inspired by groundbreaking Serbian conceptual artist Marina Abramović, who pushed her own, and her audience’s boundaries with intimate, physical and occasionally horrifying and bloody performances. Jasper is an aging base jumper who saves Sophia’s life one night, and this is where the story seems to separate from an Abramović biography and step into the realm of fiction, and the pair quickly fall in love and begin to perform together. One night Jasper leaves Sophia mid-performance, and the second half of the show follows the emotional tie-up of that relationship.

Arwen Anderson embodies Sophia, becoming this wild, chaotic and adventurous artist recounting moments both beautiful and horrific. As she looks at us directly in the eye, it’s as if she is challenging you to see through her performance — the result being that it’s easy to see yourself standing in her shoes. Anderson demands empathy. Johnny Moreno plays the intriguing, handsome Jasper with swagger and depth.

The actors are within feet of every audience member, making the physicality of the performance feel more raw, intimate, and real. The lighting is subtle, as is the sound design, and they combine to allow you to escape into the intensity of the story. The transitions are performed instead of simply set, and I found myself squinting in the dark to see what might happen in between scenes.

Despite having no physical violence, and no set or costume changes, Extreme Acts takes you on one hell of an adventure in one hour. Through Kaufman’s masterful prose, Sophia and Jasper take us on a whirlwind adventure from art spaces, to intimate moments, and into the sky and open wilderness all in our imagination.

One poignant moment in the show calls for the audience to turn to their neighbor and stare directly into their eyes for two minutes. The challenge was to see the person anew, as I stared into my date’s eyes mine began to fill with tears and it was in that moment that I got the point of the show. To be present, open your eyes, love recklessly, and push your own boundaries into the future.

Extreme Acts at The Marsh is extremely good.

photos of Arwen Anderson and Johnny Moreno by David Allen

Extreme Acts
The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St
60 Minutes | no intermission | Ages 16+
Sat at 8; Sun at 5
May 19 talkback with playwright Lynne Kauffman and the cast
ends on June 2, 2024
for tickets ($25-$35 sliding scale; $50-$100 reserved), visit The Marsh

Christopher J. Beale is an award-winning journalist, media host and producer based in San Francisco

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lynne Kaufman May 13, 2024 at 12:52 pm

Dear Christopher,

It’s every playwright’s dream to be well-reviewed but to be so fully understood is an extra joy. Thank you.



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