Joy, power of stories in Cal Shakes black odyssey

Aug 13

Joy, power of stories in Cal Shakes <i>black odyssey</i>

Just when it seems the news can't get any worse, it gets worse. This weekend in Virginia we saw some of the worst of humanity, with terror, death, hatred and ignorance all on full display. At such times, it can be hard not to give in to that helpless, hopeless feeling of things ever getting better, of our species ever giving over to our better natures rather than constantly reveling our worst.

Then there's art. In a quirk of timing for which I will be forever grateful, California Shakespeare Theater opened a new production Saturday night at the Bruns Amphitheater amid the full chilly summer glory of the Orinda Hills. It wasn't just any production, but one so suited to our troubled times that it seems we should find some way to broadcast it nationally over and over.

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Cal Shakes musters a forceful Glass Menagerie

Jul 09

Cal Shakes musters a forceful <i>Glass Menagerie</i>

Except for large proscenium frame, the stage of California Shakespeare Theater's Bruns Amphitheater is mostly bare. There's no back wall to the stage, so the light from the setting sun on the Orinda hills is spectacular. It will be dark soon – in more ways than one.

On a gorgeous Saturday night, complete with a warm breeze and, eventually, a full moon, Cal Shakes opened The Glass Menagerie, marking the Bruns debut of Tennessee Williams.

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Cal Shakes gets terrifically Tempest tossed

Nov 14

Cal Shakes gets terrifically <i>Tempest</i> tossed

On a day when terrible things were happening in the world, being immersed in William Shakespeare's The Tempest was sweet balm, especially as performed by the fine actors of California Shakespeare Theater's "All the World's a Stage" tour of the show, which, in classic traveling players mode, is being performed in senior centers, homeless shelters, federal prison, rehab centers and the like. It's hard not to agree with Caliban when he says, "Hell is empty. All the devils are here." But dark notions of revenge, which so inform the play itself, are soothed by virtue, and Prospero's exquisite speech, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” is practically heartbreaking in its beauty.

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Cal Shakes closes with apocalyptic King Lear

Sep 20

Cal Shakes closes with apocalyptic <i>King Lear</i>

When California Shakespeare Theater ended the 2007 season with a heavy, industrial-looking King Lear, opening night was a cold one in the Bruns Amphitheater (read my review here). Eight years later, Cal Shakes once again ends the season with another heavy, industrial-looking Lear, but opening night was one of the rare ones when you could have worn short sleeves throughout (most of) the 2 1/2-hour tragedy. There's just something delicious about...

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Cal Shakes scares up big laughs in vivacious Vep

Aug 20

Cal Shakes scares up big laughs in vivacious <i>Vep</i>

How appropriate to go (high) camping under the stars in the Orinda hills with the California Shakespeare Theater. One doesn't think of Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep as a play for the great outdoors, but now-former Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone and his dynamic actor duo make a strong case for Ludlam being funny anywhere.

As swan songs go, Moscone picked a doozy, if only because he leaves them laughing.

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Cal Shakes dreams a Dream under the stars

Jul 12

Cal Shakes dreams a <i>Dream</i> under the stars

There's so much talk about nature and stars in Life Is a Dream that it seems perfectly natural to be sitting outside on a temperate summer night watching Pedro Calderón de la Barca's 1635 play about thwarting destiny and connecting to the deepest truths of human existence.

California Shakespeare Theater's production of Dream, a beautiful if thorny play, offers the chance to see a work that is all too rarely performed.

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