This is the time: Anna Deavere Smith at Berkeley Rep

Jul 16

This is the time: Anna Deavere Smith at Berkeley Rep

If you've ever seen a show by our foremost docudramatist, Anna Deavere Smith, you know the power she has over an audience. She conducts extensive interviews on her chosen topic, then she re-creates portions of those interviews an a cannily crafted show that is theatrical in its presentation and righteous in its political and emotional power. She makes her audience think, feel and converse for days (and beyond). Now, with Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, she is going even further. She's turning her show into a full-blown seminar.

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One man, two guvnors & 102 belly laughs

May 16

One man, two guvnors & 102 belly laughs

Francis Henshall may be one sandwich short of a picnic, as they say, but that's one of many reasons One Man, Two Guvnors is so much fun. Francis' hunger literally drives the first act's zaniness, and truth be told, once that hunger is satisfied, the farce loses a bit (but certainly not all) of its oomph. Thankfully there's a perky skiffle band on stage to keep things bouncing along.

Oh, if only all adaptations could be this fun. When playwright Richard Bean decided to pull Carlo Goldoni's 18th-century comedy into a specific time and place in the 20th century – Brighton, England, 1963 – he did so with an eye to heightening and broadening the comedy from its Venetian origins.

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Trials, tribulations in powerful Passes at Berkeley Rep

Apr 18

Trials, tribulations in powerful <i>Passes</i> at Berkeley Rep

Some houses leak when it rains. For Shelah, the deluge inside is almost as severe as the one outside, and that's just the water. The metaphorical flood – of tragedy – has only just begun.

Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes, a co-production of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and New York's Public Theater, takes its cue from Job, the world's most famous sufferer and faith questioner. This time out, the one who will pray on bended knee and shake her fist at God is Shelah, the matriarch of a family whose Louisiana home sits where three forks of the Mississippi River come together in a wetlands area known as Head of Passes.

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Berkeley Rep’s tart and tangy Tartuffe keeps the faith

Mar 21

Berkeley Rep’s tart and tangy <i>Tartuffe</i> keeps the faith

Faith is one of the most valuable and powerful things human beings have to give away, and anyone who takes advantage of that faith with anything less than sincerity and devotion qualifies as the most heinous of villains. That's why Molière's Tartuffe is so damn funny...and dark...and unsettling.

The oft-banned 1667 satirical comedy has had a long history of production and controversy over the last 350 years, and director Dominique Serrand's new production – a co-production of South Coast Repertory (where it opened), Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. – add an admirable chapter to the play's history.

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Gardley gets a Glickman

Feb 04

Gardley gets a Glickman

Oakland playwright Marcus Gardley is the winner of the Will Glickman Award for the best new play to have its premiere in the Bay Area in 2014. The play is The House that will not Stand, loosely based on Federico Garcìa Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, which had its premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in February of 2014. Read my review of the show here.

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Love and loathing in Berkeley Rep’s football drama

Jan 24

Love and loathing in Berkeley Rep’s football drama

A critic's personal feelings or attachment to a subject are often irrelevant when it comes to writing about a particular play. But in the case of Berkeley Repertory Theatre's world premiere of X'x and O's (A Football Love Story), I feel I have to disclose a strong personal bias. I loathe football. LOATHE it, and have all my life. That's my dad and my brother's territory. I'll be in my room canoodling with stereotypes and listening to Broadway cast albums. Sports in general have never interested me much, but no other sporting activity do I actively detest and strenuously ignore as much as loud, violent, overblown football.

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