Cal Shakes ends season with a vibrant Dream

Sep 07

Cal Shakes ends season with a vibrant <i>Dream</i>

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a landmark play for California Shakespeare Theater. When the company really became the company, then known as Berkeley Shakespeare Company, the first show produced at John Hinkel Park was Midsummer. Since then, the play has been performed seven more times, and now Cal Shakes concludes its 40th anniversary season with a version of the play that feels unlike any other production of it I've seen.

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Double good, double fun in Cal Shakes’ Comedy

Jun 29

Double good, double fun in Cal Shakes’ <i>Comedy</i>

A visiting stranger makes a keen observation: "Your town is troubled with unruly boys." The trouble is, he ends up being one of the unruly boys, and that's the fun of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, a masterfully chaotic comedy now at California Shakespeare Theater's Bruns Amphitheater.

As farces go, this Comedy requires us to believe that two sets of not-so-bright twins with the same names – the upper-class set is called Antipholus, the slave set is called Dromio – cause confusion, consternation and furious frustration when roaming the streets of Ephesus of the same day. Once over that hump (and Shakespeare makes it pretty easy), the farce clicks along like a finely tuned laugh machine until brothers are reunited, a father's search is fulfilled and a courtesan gets her diamond ring back.

Director Aaron Posner strikes the right tone from the start...

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Scheie shines in SJ Rep’s poignant Next Fall

Oct 26

Scheie shines in SJ Rep’s poignant <i>Next Fall</i>

As an actor and director, there is seemingly nothing Danny Scheie cannot do. Over the summer, he dazzled in several drag roles in California Shakespeare Theater's Lady Windermere's Fan (read my review here), and now he's doing a serious about face in the drama Next Fall with San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Geoffrey Nauffts' play is formulaic to a degree, but it's a sturdy formula, and Scheie – not to mention the rest of the excellent cast – bring out the best in this play about faith, love and family.

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Looking at the stars: Cal Shakes fans flames of Wilde’s Winderemere

Aug 18

Looking at the stars: Cal Shakes fans flames of Wilde’s <i>Winderemere</i>

If you want, as Oscar Wilde did, to make cogent and funny points about men and women, husbands and wives and the notion of good people vs. bad people, what better way to do that than by putting Danny Scheie in a dress and letting him unleash his inner Dame Maggie Smith?

Scheie's performance as the Duchess of Berwick in the California Shakespeare Theater's production Lady Windermere's Fan, Wilde's first major theatrical it, is one of many pleasures in director Christopher Liam Moore's beguiling production.

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A wildly Happy homecoming at TheatreWorks

Jun 09

A wildly <i>Happy</i> homecoming at TheatreWorks

In his wildly cynical, angry, sad and, ultimately, happy new play Wild With Happy, playwright/actor (and former San Franciscan) Colman Domingo is doing several admirable things. In telling the story of a 40-year-old man who has just lost his mother, he is telling a modern fairy tale in which the mother – so often long dead and gone in such tales – is the driving force. And he's pushing hard against the enormous cultural boulder that goes by various names – cynicism, snark, realism – but is really just the absence of hope.

In its West Coast premiere from TheatreWorks, Wild With Happy is a light farce until it isn't.

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Berkeley Rep’s Troublemaker is freakin A for awesome

Jan 11

Berkeley Rep’s <i>Troublemaker</i> is freakin A for awesome

The joy, turbulence and agony of being a tween are so effectively conveyed in Dan LeFranc's Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, that you forgive him his excesses. After all, if you can't be excessive telling the story of a troubled 12-year-old, when can you?

LeFranc's play, now having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a coming-of-age story cleverly disguised as a hyperactive, hyper-verbal adventure story invented by a bright kid with some deep-seeded emotional problems. Constructed in three acts with two intermissions, the play begins as spin on the noir genre. Instead of hardboiled detectives and criminals, we have Bradley Boatright, a Rhode Island seventh grader. And instead of all that cool Sam Spade dialogue, we have Bradley's own invented slang that's a whole lot more lively and fun. The words "freak" and "freakin" carry much of the load, as do "spangles, "intel" and "a-hole." It's pretend swearing to such an outrageous level that it's actually beautiful in its own poetic way.

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