To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in Wittenberg

Apr 11

To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in <i>Wittenberg</i>

You don't have to have a college degree to enjoy David Davalos' Wittenberg a the Aurora Theatre Company, but it sure will help.

If 16th-century academia is your thing, then you probably already know all about Wittenberg, the German university made famous as the seat of higher learning from which young Prince Hamlet of Denmark returned home after his father's murder.

Wittenberg also happens to be where Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, theologian and lecturer, nailed his 95 provocative thoughts on a church door and sparked the Protestant Reformation. And, to keep things interesting, the hallowed university happens to be where Christopher Marlowe's fictional Dr. Faustus practiced his dark arts.

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Fit to be tied in Aurora’s powerful, provocative Knot

Feb 07

Fit to be tied in Aurora’s powerful, provocative <i>Knot</i>

To call Gidion's Knot, Johnna Adams' play now at the Aurora Theatre Company, a mystery is accurate but only to a point. Certainly there are things we don't know and need to find out, but there's a whole lot more to this complex, disturbing and even devastating drama.

Looking at Nina Ball's incredibly realistic fifth-grade classroom set – complete with tiled ceiling and fluorescent lights – it's easy to think, "A play about a parent-teacher conference in a bright, friendly classroom. How intense could this be?" Oh, it's intense all right.

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2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

Dec 23

2013: The year’s best Bay Area theater

If you’re looking for the year’s best, you can shorten your search by heading directly to Word for Word, that ever-amazing group that turns short works of fiction into some of the most captivating theater we see around here. This year, we were graced with two outstanding Word for Word productions. You Know When the Men Are Gone – Word for...

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Aurora finds rapture in Boise

Nov 15

Aurora finds rapture in <i>Boise</i>

For a second time this fall theater season, a play is dealing with the Rapture, that moment when believers will ascend and everyone else...doesn't. First it was the young gay actor in the San Jose Repertory Theatre production of Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall (read my review here). He worried that as a believer, he would spend eternity without the comfort of his boyfriend, a non-believer, and the boyfriend kind of rolled his eyes and dismissed the whole Rapture thing as nonsense.

Now we have Samuel D. Hunter's A Bright New Boise at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company in which a staunch believer has his faith shaken by a terrible event at his northern Idaho church enclave (cult?) and attempts to make a fresh start in the bustling metropolis of Boise.

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Personal is political in Aurora’s fiery Revolution

Sep 06

Personal is political in Aurora’s fiery <i>Revolution</i>

Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company opens its 22nd season with Amy Herzog's smart, moving drama After the Revolution, an ambitious play that juggles American history, the cost of political idealism and how one generation affects another – for good and ill – in a tight-knit family.

This is the same Herzog whose 4000 Miles was so good at American Conservatory Theater earlier this year (read my review here), and this play, which predates 4000 Miles, also features the character of Vera Joseph (who is based on Herzog's own grandmother).

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Feeling the heat at Aurora’s Arsonists

Apr 12

Feeling the heat at Aurora’s <i>Arsonists</i>

My first encounter with Swiss playwright Max Frisch was in college when my Drama as Literature class read his Biedermann and the Firebugs, a 1953 radio play that was expanded into a stage play in 1958. The subtitle of that version was the clunky "a learning-play without a lesson." Alistair Beaton delivered a new translation to London's Royal Court Theatre in 2007 with the much zippier title – The Arsonists – and a subtitle: "a moral play without a moral." Happily, that's the version now on stage at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company under the customarily energetic direction of Mark Jackson.

The time is now, and Frisch's take on the wishy-washy morals of the privileged middle class is as astute as ever.

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