Aurora’s Fifth of July more cherry bomb than firework

May 07

Aurora’s <i>Fifth of July</i> more cherry bomb than firework

It's easy to imagine how, in 1978, Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July was remarkable for several reasons. It featured a loving gay couple at the center of its family-friend-reunion plot and didn't make a big deal about it. That's not what the play is about, but the couple and their relationship are as important as any other on stage. Also, the play wrestles with the repercussions of the 1960s anti-war movements and how all that passionate activism evolved, and in many cases, dissipated into the '70s.

Some have compared Wilson to Chekhov, and it's easy to see why...

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Aurora’s Lyons subdues its roar

Feb 08

Aurora’s <i>Lyons</i> subdues its roar

There are breathtaking moments – literally, your capacity to process oxygen is shut down – in Nicky Silver's script of The Lyons now at the Aurora Theatre. Silver takes an average situation – a patriarch in the final days of an illness is tended to by his wife and two adult children – and makes it painfully funny by exposing every sharp edge he can find and slicing through anything in his way. Those breathtaking moments usually involve some sort of truth telling at the expense of someone else's fragile or carefully crafted sense of self, but the inability to breathe is often followed by a huge laugh.

Or at least it feels like there should be a big laugh. Director Barbara Damashek's production is dialed to 6 while Silver's script seems to call for at least double that.

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A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Dec 22

A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Reviewing the shows I reviewed this year, I was struck by two things: first, and as usual, there’s an abundance of talented people doing great work at all levels of Bay Area theater; second, this was a lesser year in Bay Area theater. Perhaps the reason for the later has to do with the changes in the Bay Area itself – artists are fleeing outrageous rents,...

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Breakfast of champions? Aurora chills with Mugabe

Nov 21

Breakfast of champions? Aurora chills with <i>Mugabe</i>

EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 20 Dr. Peric (Dan Hiatt, center) looks to make an exit from his breakfast meeting with Robert Mugabe (L. Peter Callender, left) as presidential bodyguard Gabriel (Adrian Roberts) stands watch in Aurora Theatre Company’s Breakfast with Mugabe. Below: Hiatt’s Dr. Peric has a run in with Mrs. Mugabe (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong). Photos by David...

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Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s Rapture

Sep 05

Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s <i>Rapture</i>

There's an observation about Internet porn in Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company that is at once hilarious and trenchant. A college woman encapsulates the ease of access to porn this way: "Once you get directions from Google Maps, it seems such a hassle to unfold an actual map."

Generational differences and technology come into play a lot in Rapture, a crackling season opener for the Aurora. Gionfriddo is a smart, feisty writer who knows her way around a joke that always contains more than a laugh. She tackles the gargantuan issue of feminism and its evolution into the 21st century and comes through with a stage full of surprising, complicated characters having passionate, always intriguing discussions.

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Mamet with heart (and humor) at Aurora

Jun 21

Mamet with heart (and humor) at Aurora

Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company concludes its season with David Mamet's American Buffalo, an early (1975) Mamet play that has all the telltale Mamet qualities (staccato dialogue sprayed in four-letter directions, life among conmen and criminals, pointed criticism of the "great American way," etc.), but unlike some of the later, more intentionally provocative and disturbing work, this one has a core of compassion and human connection.

Part of that is Mamet's play and part of it is director Barbara Damashek's production headed by two Bay Area greats: James Carpenter and Paul Vincent O'Connor. Watching them spar is theatrical bliss.

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