Theater Dogs changes, Cal Shakes’ Cowardly courage

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

What a tumultuous year it has been here at Theater Dogs. Thank you for taking the ride.

The news is that I have jumped the fence, from writing about theater to working in theater. As the new communications manager for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, I find that I can no longer review Bay Area theater without feeling a nagging conflict of interest. So what’s a dedicated blogger to do?

Here’s what I have figured out for the time being – and this may evolve in time: I’m going to keep the blog alive with news, both local and national, as well as occasional reviews of theater-related music, books, TV and film.

Because I am a devoted fan of Bay Area theater, I will continue to see as much theater as I can, and when I see something wonderful, I will give it a shout out here at Theater Dogs. We’re not talking full-on reviews but boosts, encouragement to get out there and experience the best the Bay Area has to offer on its multitude of stages.

And I invite you to do the same. When you see something great, please drop me a line at I’ll happily post your thoughts and keep the conversation about our vibrant theater scene alive.

And the first shout out goes to…


To get the conversation started, here’s what I enjoyed about the California Shakespeare Theater production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

First off, we lucked out and saw the show on a gorgeous summer night – warm, no wind, starry skies, in short, heaven at the Bruns Amphitheater.

I happened to catch Private Lives the same day I saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno, and I have to say, I was relieved to lose myself in the sophisticated humor of Coward after finding myself completely turned off by Cohen’s generally mean, uninspired and fruitless attempt to wring laughs from ridicule and dick jokes (and this from someone who still hasn’t stopped laughing over Borat).

What bliss to be immersed in the world of 1930s Coward, where adults with complicated romantic entanglements parry and thrust with words and wit, all the while looking glam and gorgeous.

I have a great love for all things Coward, and I must say it’s a delight to see the main characters in Private Lives, Amanda and Elyot, played with such warmth and passion by Diana Lamar and Stephen Barker Turner (above right, photo by Kevin Berne). The characters, originated by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, can be played as brittle facades, but Lamar and Turner, under the direction of Mark Rucker, turn from icy Brits in formal wear into pajama-clad lust buckets with convincing glee.

Act 2, which takes place in Amanda’s Paris flat (the colorful set design is by Annie Smart), bursts with passion as Amanda and Elyot proceed to destroy the flat – and each other – all the while proving over and over again how impossible it will be to live with each other and how equally impossible it will be to part company.

Turner and Lamar have sizzling chemistry that flares and fires consistently and with ever-richer results.


Cal Shakes’ Private Lives continues through Aug. 2 at the Bruns Amphitheater, just off Highway 24 at the Shakespeare Festival Way/Gateway exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel in Orinda. Tickets start at $20. Call 510-548-9666 or visit for information.
Coming up at Cal Shakes:

Next up is Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days starring Marsha Mason, Aug. 12-Sept. 6.

Also the Cal Shakes costume department has just completed a huge reorganization of its inventory, and the result is tons and tons of costumes, wigs, and accessories, to be sold to the public at thrift-store prices for a few days only. Thirty-five years’ worth of hats, armor, capes, Renaissance and Tudor, unique modern pieces—a little bit of everything! Perfect for Burning Man costumes, Ren Faire, Halloween and what-have-you.

Here are the details: Cal Shakes Costume Shop Sale, Thursday, Aug. 6–Sunday, Aug. 9, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Cal Shakes Rehearsal Hall, 701 Heinz Ave., West Berkeley (Just a few blocks west of San Pablo and north of Ashby). Call 510.548.3422 x131 or e-mail for information.