Othello: not a fan but a grudging admirer

Apr 06

<i>Othello</i>: not a fan but a grudging admirer

When faced with the prospect of seeing another production of Othello, I usually gird my loins, wipe my nose with a strawberry-embroidered hanky and settle in for a show I know I'm not going to like much. As a theater critic, I suppose I'm not supposed to have a bias for or against certain plays, but that's really nonsensical when you think about it, especially plays you've seen over and over and over again. I've been doing the theatrical criticism thing for almost 20 years now, and I've seen Desdemona choked (and choked and choked again) a number of times, in good productions and bad. And I've never really been moved by the play. Certain performances made an impact, but more on an intellectual than emotional level.

Perhaps I should have skipped the latest Othello at Marin Theatre Company, but the prospect of seeing two actors I admire greatly, Aldo Billingslea and Craig Marker as Othello and Iago respectively, was too much to resist. I have to say I'm glad I saw the production because these two formidable local talents do not disappoint.

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Aurora premiere bridges gap between comedy and Collapse

Feb 05

Aurora premiere bridges gap between comedy and <i>Collapse</i>

Sometimes things collapse. Sometimes buildings and bridges, things that are built to physically support us. And sometimes marriages and families, things that are meant to sustain and bolster us, crumble as well.

Both kinds of ruin are examined – sometimes to hilarious comic effect – in Allison Moore's Collapse, a rolling world premiere at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company. The concept of a rolling premiere is essentially a collaboration, in this case with the National New Play Network and Curious Theatre in Denver and Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas.

Director Jessica Heidt's sharp, wildly entertaining production begins on rather a sly note. She has pitched her actors to an extreme level of discomfort, yet their goal is to appear perfectly normal and happy. It's a total sitcom situation – living room set and all – as David (Gabriel Marin) attempts to inject the posterior of his wife, Hannah (Carrie Paff), with fertility drugs. Their chipper anxiety about the fertility process is masking something else. We don't know what, but we sense it's serious. He's drinking too much, she's worried about being laid off from her legal firm and there's a shadow looming over their relationship.

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Jesus and his extraordinary Mississippi moonwalk

Mar 21

Jesus and his extraordinary <i>Mississippi</i> moonwalk

On the theatrical spectrum, this is the exact opposite of the sitcom-ready Sunset and Margaritas now at TheatreWorks (read my review of that play in the Palo Alto Weekly here), which is to say this is challenging, thought-provoking material given the kind of sharply etched production that inspires curiosity and wonder. There's nothing easy about Moonwalks, and that's a good thing. Gardley, working with director Amy Mueller, weaves myth, folklore, American Civil War history, personal family history and musings on race in this country.

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Review: `Radio Golf’

Oct 15

Aldo Billingslea (left) is Harmond Wilks, C. Kelly Wright (center) is Harmond’s wife, Mame, and Anthony J. Haney is Harmond’s business partner, Roosevelt Hicks, in August Wilson’s Radio Golf at TheatreWorks in Mountain View. Photos by Mark Kitacka.   Superb cast tunes up Wilson’s `Radio’ at TheatreWorks««« ½   Even the...

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6 questions for August Wilson scholar/director Harry J. Elam Jr.

Oct 07

C. Kelly Wright and Aldo Billingslea head a top-notch cast of Bay Area actors in the TheatreWorks production of August Wilson’s final play, Radio Golf. Photo by David Allen August Wilson, according to Harry J. Elam Jr., is one of our greatest American playwrights. With two Pulitzers, the late Wilson was the most produced playwright of the 1990s and he looks to...

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