This article appeared on page E – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle.  That’s page 1 of Datebook.  Awesome!


Little Brother: Drama. By Josh Costello, adapted from the novel by Cory Doctorow. Directed by Costello. Through Feb. 25. Custom Made Theatre Company, Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough St., S.F. Two hours. $25-$32. (510) 207-5774.

“As you read this, drones are flying overhead,” warns a program note for Custom Made Theatre’s world premiere of “Little Brother.” Point well taken. Sure it’s science fiction, but the most sobering aspect of Josh Costello’s bracing adaption of Cory Doctorow’s best-selling young-adult novel may be how rapidly events have caught up with the 2008 book.

Not that the Bay Bridge has been destroyed in a terrorist attack, as in the story. Nor has Homeland Security set up a secret detention center on Treasure Island – Gitmo-by-the-bay – and begun “disappearing” thousands of local citizens.

But other developments in the near-future world of “Brother” – the continued erosion of civil liberties, the growth of public and private surveillance, the emergence of “leaderless” online resistance and the sudden eruption of youth-led mass movements from Cairo to Wall Street – had materialized before Costello’s dramatization opened last week at the Gough Street Playhouse. That’s one reason the show has generated enough well-deserved buzz to extend its run another two weeks.

Briskly staged by Costello, “Brother” is a fast-paced techie-political adventure upholstered in clever live and animated video projections and energized by Chris Houston’s score and Daunielle Rasmussen’s freewheeling choreography. It’s also, Doctorow fans be warned, a radically cut and altered version of the book, but one that retains its attitude and rabble-rousing message.

Performed with youthful conviction by three actors, “Brother” is not the story of 17-year-old Mission hacker Marcus (a magnetic Daniel Petzold) – as his companions keep reminding him – but of cataclysmic events as witnessed (and influenced) by him.

Those include some high-tech hacking, being secretly and brutally interrogated by Homeland Security, sparking a groundswell of cyber-grassroots resistance to the burgeoning security-police state and falling back into its hands. Marissa Keltie is compelling as his super-smart, very direct hacker rival turned dedicated partner and girlfriend.

Keltie and Cory Censoprano play all the other roles – teens, teachers, parents, cops, interrogators (chillingly), reporters and more. Some aren’t filled out or differentiated as well as they could be, and there are holes and lapses in the script. “Brother” takes a little while to pull you in, but once it does, the story and actors generate a momentum that’s hard to resist.

Costello succeeds best in interweaving the story’s thriller plot and its comically touching romance with its outspoken politics. By the perhaps too-wishful-thinking end, we’re all fired up to embrace the Bill of Rights – as radical as that document now seems.

E-mail Robert Hurwitt at [email protected].

This article appeared on page E – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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