Speaking words of wisdom, Mother Mary testifies at ACT

Nov 06

Speaking words of wisdom, Mother Mary testifies at ACT

Has any mother ever inspired so much and such varied art?

Colm Tóibín's Testament, now at American Conservatory Theater, is another in a long line of interpretations of Mary, mother of Jesus. In is version, which started life as a Dublin play, then became a novel before being turned into a different play on Broadway last year, Toibin is interested in the humanity of Mary, a mother first and foremost, and a citizen caught up – rather unwillingly – in a dangerous rebellion.

Directed by ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff and starring revered Canadian actor Seana McKenna ...

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ACT’s epic Orphan dusts off ancient tale

Jun 12

ACT’s epic <i>Orphan</i> dusts off ancient tale

American Conservatory Theater concludes its season with The Orphan of Zhao an epic tale of revenge that some scholars think stretches back to the fourth century BCE. It's a tale as old as time, and the first act of this 2 1/2-hour show feels like a millennia itself. But once the revenge gears really start grinding, there's an interesting story here. I reviewed the production for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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ACT’s Lintel celebrates life, librarians

Oct 30

ACT’s <i>Lintel</i> celebrates life, librarians

What's the haps in Hoofddorp, you ask? Well, for a small town in Holland, things are pretty dull, actually, thanks for asking. The good news is they've got a heck of a library in Hoofddorp, complete with the Dewey decimal system and time-stamped check-out cards and everything. We know this because a former librarian – we never find out his name – desperately wants to tell us about a life-changing adventure that was triggered by something that happened on an ordinary day on the job at the library.

So goes Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel, a solo drama now at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater. The inestimable David Strathairn is the Librarian, complete with mild Dutch accent (he sounds a little like Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball on the old Carol Burnett Show) and the growing enthusiasm of globe-trotting storyteller on a mission.

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Stunning Arcadia returns to ACT

Jun 06

Stunning <i>Arcadia</i> returns to ACT

The ideas are as big as the heart in Tom Stoppard's glorious Arcadia, a play that seems only to get better with time.

When American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff first directed the play in 1995 at the Stage Door Theatre, the production and the play came off beautifully and with more warmth than the chilly 1995 production at New York's Lincoln Center. But now that Perloff has revived the play at the Geary Theater, it's like switching from an cozy, old-fashioned living room TV to high-def, widescreen wonder.

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The power you’re supplyin’, it’s Elektra-fyin’!

Nov 01

The power you’re supplyin’, it’s <i>Elektra</i>-fyin’!

Suddenly, we're awash in Greeks. Must have something to do with the upcoming election. Everyone's feeling deeply and internationally tragic. We have An Iliad over at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and now at American Conservatory Theater, we have Sophocles' Elektra in a muscular and potent translation/adaptation by Timberlake Wertenbaker.

As it is, this Carey Perloff-directed Elektra has some gripping moments, most courtesy of core company member René Augesen in the title role. I lost track, but I don't think there was one moment in this 90-minute production when her face wasn't shiny with tears.

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Feeling burned by ACT’s Scorched

Feb 29

Feeling burned by ACT’s <i>Scorched</i>

Wajdi Mouawad's drama Scorched is a riveting, affecting and thought-provoking play – in its last 30 minutes. To get there you have to spend more than two hours slogging through layers of back story, stilted acting and rigid dialogue (the translation is by Linda Gaboriau).

You have to ask yourself, is the slog worth it? I'll have to let you know...

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