ACT’s deep dive into Albee’s Seascape

Nancy (Ellen McLaughlin) and Charlie (James Carpenter) meet Leslie (Seann Gallagher), a human-sized lizard that has just crawled out of the sea, in Edward Albee’s Seascape at ACT’s Geary Theater through Feb. 17. Below: McLaughlin and Carpenter are startled by two human-sized lizards, played by Gallagher and Sarah Nina Hayon. Photos by Kevin Berne

As directing debuts go, Pam MacKinnon’s for American Conservatory Theater is pretty auspicious. Her production of Seascape by Edward Albee is her first on the Geary Theater stage since taking over as artistic director last year. A Tony Award-winner (for Albee’s 2012 revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) who has worked on other Bay Area stages (Berkeley Rep, Magic), MacKinnon seems to have landed quite comfortably in the world of institutional regional theater.

Her production of Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1975 play crackles with crisp performances that easily carry the audience through the more naturalistic aspects of the play and into its wilder, more absurdist regions. When the curtain rises, there’s a moment of refreshing awe at the sight of David Zinn’s set: tall, grassy sand dunes along the Atlantic coast. The sound of waves crash in the background, the peace occasionally interrupted by a screaming jet plane overhead (sound design by Brendan Aanes). It’s interesting that the back of the theater is left exposed, as are all the bright, sunny lights that comprise designer Isabella Byrd’s grid. There’s reality and there’s fantasy reality occupying the same space, which is entirely appropriate for this play.

Seascape begins as a marital drama (an Albee specialty). A long-married couple is readjusting to retirement and the twin notions of aging and mortality as reality rather than concept. Nancy (Ellen McLaughlin) has found her happy place on this sunny stretch of beach. She envisions a future free of grown children, grandchildren and responsibilities. She floats the notion of becoming beach nomads and seeing the world from sand strip to sand strip. But Charlie (James Carpenter) wants to do nothing. “We’ve earned a rest,” he keeps saying. This schism – “purgatory before purgatory” – is cause for a discussion that gets deeper and more intimate between husband and wife, and McLaughlin and Carpenter are riveting. They feel deeply connected yet strongly individual and can also be quite funny.


Traversing the bumpy landscape of matrimony with this couple makes for surprisingly grand entertainment. Nothing major or melodramatic is happening, but in a way, as they review their life together, everything is happening. But then something major really does happen: a couple of human-sized lizards crawl out of the sea and begin a fairly deep existential discussion with the humans (once everyone determines that one couple is not interested in eating the other). It’s a little like the two-couple dynamic of Virginia Woolf meets the monster-in-the-house horror of A Delicate Balance.

Because Albee’s script is so smart and funny, and because the performances of the humans and the lizards – Sarah Nina Hayon as Sarah and Seann Gallagher as Leslie – are so warm and real, there’s never any difficulty making the leap into fantasy. The absurdity is quite enjoyable (like the man having the affair with the goat named Sylvia in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?), although Albee never quite solves the internal logic of how Sarah and Leslie have excellent vocabularies and seem to know what human months and years are but don’t know what birds are. Because we’re in the realm of evolution and those key moments when the next phase actually happens, it feels like something’s missing in the story of the lizards’ evolution up to this point. But we do get some wonderful “learning” moments, as when the lizards learn the human custom of shaking hands to say hello.

Designer Zinn’s costumes for Sarah and Leslie are spectacular, and the way Hayon and Gallagher inhabit them makes them so much more than green suits with giant tails. It’s easy to fall in love with these creatures, especially Sarah, who is curious and empathetic in ways that make you root for her personal evolution. If she can do it, you know Leslie, who seems not quite as advanced, can do it, too.

There’s a sag in Act 2, and Albee doesn’t quite seem to know where he wants his curious quartet to land. The overall tone of Seascape carries the tidal weight of existence and emotional turmoil, but that is lifted somehow by an element of hope and acceptance.

I talked to ACT’s new artistic director, Pam MacKinnon, about making her ACT directorial debut with Seascape for the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the story here.

Edward Albee’s Seascape continues through Feb. 17 at American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$110 (subject to change). Call 415-749-2228 or visit

Bouncy around here: Shotgun’s Virginia Woolf howls

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The quartet in Shotgun Players’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? includes, from left, David Sinaiko as George, Josh Schell as Nick, Megan Trout as Honey and Beth Wilmurt as Martha. Below: Martha and Nick get their groove on, while Honey and George watch from the sidelines. Photos by Jessica Palopoli

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is famous for being, among other things, a night in the life of a querulous quartet, a four-part marital slugfest, a boozy broadside in four parts. In other words, four actors fighting, lashing out, drinking and suffering. All of that is present and accounted for in director Mark Jackson’s production concluding Shotgun Players’ 25th anniversary season. But it feels like there’s another character here.

In the center ring, the boxing ring that is, we have George and Martha – the associate professor of history and the daughter of the college president – who make their detestation of life (and, consequently, each other) a contact sport. Jackson’s set designer, Nina Ball, helps him remove the play from reality (it’s all an illusion anyway) by creating a home without furniture. There’s a big parquet wood floor, a central staircase leading to a second level and, most prominently, two backlit built-in bars filled with an assortment of bottles.

The vast emptiness is, literally and figuratively, a stage on which George and Martha enact their drama for a late-night audience of two, new arrivals to the college Nick (a biology professor) and his wife, Honey. Once they arrive, that empty stage becomes more of a boxing ring, which is referred two several times in the play (there’s even a story about Martha punching George in front of her father). The void also creates additional tension – Albee’s script supplies plenty of its own – because none of the characters can sit comfortably. They have set on the edge of the stage, on the stairs or on the floor. The areas to the side of the stage become littered with coats, purses, shoes, broken glass and lots of empty cocktail vessels.

Even though we know how this Woolf works – Albee’s 1962 play, famously denied the Pulitzer by the very committee that awarded it, is familiar from the shrill movie and countless productions over the last 54 years – it’s both comforting and shocking to feel the oomph of the verbal sparring and to revel in the nastiness of impolite behavior by people who know better. Lines like “I swear if you existed I’d divorce you” or “My arm has got tired whipping you” are timeless because they’re just that mean. And the way the younger couple gets sucked into the older couple’s vortex is so fascinating it’s practically scientific. Why don’t they just leave? They can’t! They’re caught in an irreversible gravitational pull and the solar system is about to implode!

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So amid the familiarity of well-loved/feared play, the ever-intelligent and adventurous Jackson shakes things up. First thing you notice is that set (well lit by Heather Basarab) and all that space. Then comes that presence, something so potent it becomes like a fifth member of the party: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Piano vamp, unforgettable sax melody, colossal drum solo – it’s a familiar tune that takes on sinister proportions here used both as underscore and as a song that the characters are actually playing on the old record player. At one point, and I could have imagined this, it seemed like the characters were speaking in rhythm with the music, like Albee’s dialogue was jazz itself. Thrilling. The drum solo also pops in not unlike Antonio Sanchez’s drum score in the movie Birdman. Brubeck is replaced by more generic white noise horror movie sound in the third act, which isn’t as effective, but chances are good that for audience members, “Take Five” will trigger memories of this Woolf.

At more than three hours, this is a lot of play. But Jackson’s inventiveness and his sturdy quartet of actors ensure an evening that never lags. Beth Wilmurt and David Sinaiko are Martha and George, a couple whose aggression and passive aggression know no bounds. Wilmurt’s Martha shows some vulnerability underneath the gizzard-slicing wit and smart cruelty. She has the most unconvincing laugh ever heard – every time she laughs it sounds almost painful for her – and when she decides to be a sexual predator, she leaves no doubt that she could accomplish whatever she wants.

Sinaiko’s George hardly seems the victim here. He may be Martha’s punching bag, but he gives as good as he gets, and seems to take special delight in getting the guests, to paraphrase the name of one of his party games. Josh Schell and Megan Trout as Nick and Honey, the George and Martha in training, work hard to avoid caricature, and while Trout conjures images of an uptight Madeline Kahn in What’s Up Doc?, Schell effectively creates a more complex man than the straight white product-of-the-’50s jock that Nick seems to be.

The emotional intensity of the performances doesn’t always reach Albee’s maximum levels, but it’s all here, the train wreck, schadenfreude, hurt me some more, pour me another, please love me mind fuck that is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Rest in peace, Mr. Albee.

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? continues through Nov. 20 in its initial run then continues in repertory Nov. 27 through Jan. 22. Tickets are $25-$40. Call 510-841-6500 or visit

Life on the precipice: Remembering Edward Albee


A towering giant has fallen. Edward Albee has died at 88.

A playwright who forged his own way and wielded his distinctive voice with lacerating skill, Albee helped define theater as we know and practice it today.

I sat down with Albee in 1997 when his Three Tall Women (one of three Albee plays to win the Pulitzer) was playing the Herbst Theatre. He was 69, and though he had a lot to say, he said it quietly, almost mumbling. When I played back the tape for transcription, there were great inaudible chunks, and I figured that was exactly as he wished it to be.

Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including his adoptive parents who raised him in affluence. “I obviously was not going to survive their environment or their hatreds,” he told me. “I wasn’t what they bought. I couldn’t tolerate their political fascism. If they’d been a wonderful family, I probably would have rebelled against everything that was good and turned into the monster that I rebelled against.”

Albee’s rebellion pushed him into the theater, where he triumphed with The Zoo Story and later with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice, A Delicate Balance and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. Along the way he picked up the label “gay playwright,” and that wasn’t OK with him.

“I don’t think anybody’s identity should exist in being gay,” he said. “That’s not identity. That’s one of many identities. I belong to many minorities I’m male, I’m white, I’m educated, I earn a living, I can read, I’m creative and I’m gay. They’re all true. One of these is not any more demanding as a subject than any of the others, and I don’t find my identity in any of them. I find my identity in all of them.”

On the subject of writing, Albee said: “Communication is possible and people are capable of change. Any writer who keeps writing is nothing but an optimist. The most pessimistic writer I ever knew was Sam Beckett, but Sam kept on writing because there was a possibility of communication. No writer is a pessimist who keeps on writing.”

Albee said critics who liked his work were bright and those who didn’t were assholes. He said critics needed to tell the difference between “that which is useful and that which is merely decorative.” But the larger goal had to do with the audience: a person should leave the theater different from when they entered it. “That only happens when you allow it to,” he said. “People turn their backs on a lot of serious work because they don’t want that to happen to them.”

And, finally, we have some life instruction from the late, great Edward Albee.

People should pay more attention to how they’re living their lives, whether they’re living them fully, questioning their values. If not, they should start to think a little differently about their lives. The terrible thing is that people get to the end of their lives and realize they haven’t lived. Or they’re full of regret for things not done or things unchangeable, and that’s terrible. I don’t want people to be that way. I want everybody to live on the precipice. I want everybody to develop an awareness of immortality.

Aurora tips Albee’s Balance delicately

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Kimberly King (right) gives a stellar performance as Agnes in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company. Agnes’ world is upended by the arrival of best friends Edna (Anne Darragh, rear left) and Harry (Charles Dean) who are fleeing a nameless terror. Below: Ken Grantham (in bathrobe) is Tobias, patriarch of a challenging clan, which now includes Harry (Dean, right) and (rear, from left) Agnes (King), Julia (Carrie Paff), Claire (Jamie Jones) and Edna (Darragh). Photos by David Allen

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance only looks like a suburban comedy. It’s really an existential nightmare slightly more gussied up than your average slasher movie. Oh, blood flows in this eviscerating drama, but it’s of a more metaphorical variety than you’ll find in the Saw franchise. Between the ravages of time and the mighty pen of Albee, the family on stage has absolutely no chance at all.

And their demise is so very delicious. (Also delicious: Albee himself was in the audience for Thursday’s opening-night performance.)

A Delicate Balance opens Aurora’s 20th season, and as directed by Artistic Director Tom Ross, it’s a perfect example of why the Aurora is such a glorious part of the Bay Area theater scene. An intimate theater and a thrust stage so deep it’s practically in the round make the Aurora a crucible in which outstanding writing and superb performances combine and, with luck and a good director, ignite. To watch an actor lose herself or himself in an exquisitely crafted part is one of the greatest pleasures in the theater, and there’s no better vantage point for this than the Aurora.

Ross’ Balance is one of those wonderful Aurora experiences – a cracking good play with a strong director at the helm and intricate performances that blur the line between art and reality.

Chief among this production’s pleasures is a central performance by Kimberly King as Agnes. Hers is a performance so compelling it’s sometimes to hard to watch anybody else. From the play’s opening moments, as Agnes muses on the very real possibility that she’ll lose her mind, it’s clear that King will be the vital center of this story. Agnes is a fascinating character – strong, controlling, incredibly smart and hard to the point of impenetrability. But through Albee’s incisive writing and King’s dynamic performance, we also see the person Agnes once was – warm, funny, compassionate, nurturing – before life, and the choices she made to deal with that life, built up her defenses and made her more sour than sweet.

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Because the audience is on three sides of the stage, it’s impossible for actors to escape the careful inspection of audience members at all times. Ross, who has been with the Aurora since 1992, is adept at directing the most minute details. This means that wherever you look at any time during the play, you’ll see something revealing, especially if, like me, you’re compelled to watch King’s Agnes for the play’s three acts and nearly three hours.

Whether she’s lovingly manipulating her somewhat baffled husband, Tobias (Ken Grantham, fighting her alcoholic younger sister, Claire (Jamie Jones or dealing with the hysteria of her oft-divorced daughter, Julia (Carrie Paff), Agnes is a force of nature (“There’s no saner woman on Earth,” we’re told). She’s well spoken (indeed, she apologizes at one point for being articulate), and her words have powerful impact. She’s the fulcrum attempting to maintain the delicate balance of the title.

She rules her suburban roost (the gorgeous living room set is by Richard Olmstead and the lighting by Kurt Landisman) like a drill sergeant crossed with dowager empress with a hint of Margaret Thatcher. And yet she’s entirely likeable, even empathetic, and that’s largely due to the intricacies of King’s masterful performance.

Agnes gets even more interesting when her world starts to rock. Errant daughter Julia returns home after her fourth failed marriage on the same day that best friends Harry and Edna (Charles Dean and Anne Darragh) arrive with news that they have fled their home due to some unnamed terror. The monster of mortality is storming the neighborhood, like Godzilla touring Japan, and Agnes is just the warrior to ready her troops. As she and Tobias discuss early in the play, from their plateau of soul-numbing suburban domesticity, “we do what we can,” so of course they take in their creepily spooked friends and mentally unbalanced daughter. They don’t want to but they do.

There are so many good laughs in this production that it can feel like a rollicking comedy, but for every great laugh line, or accordion solo, there’s an equally searing observation about marriage, friendship, family and the ruinous nature of time. As when Claire, a self-described drunk rather than an alcoholic, asks for a refill on her cocktail: “Oh, come on. It’s only the first I’m not supposed to have.” The more you laugh, the closer you get to falling down the bottomless pit – “the dark sadness” as Albee describes it – at the center of the play. And that’s a theater experience to savor.

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance continues an extended run through Oct. 23 at the Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$48. Call 510-843-4822 or visit

Tiny but terrifying: Go ask Alice

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Rod Gnapp and Carrie Paff work out some kinks in their relationship in the Marin Theatre Company production of Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice. Below: Andrew Hurteau as Brother Julian. Photos by Kevin Berne

The legend of Tiny Alice looms large. Edward Albee’s notorious 1964 follow-up to his monster Broadway smash Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf baffled critics and continued to cause kerfuffles for years to come (especially when William Ball, in the early days of American Conservatory Theater played fast and loose with the script).

This is not one of Albee’s frequently produced scripts, and after seeing Marin Theatre Company’s riveting production, it’s easy to see why. This play is a monster. It’s not like Albee hasn’t created monsters before (he loves to rile the beasts in many ways), but this one is especially weighty.

Notions of God, faith, corruption and the supernatural all bear down for three acts and three solid hours, which means a serious evening of theater. It’s not that there aren’t laughs – how could there not be, the Catholic Church is involved (cheap shot, sorry)? – Albee is such a sharp writer and this cast is so astute that chuckles and outright laughs are frequent (and that can make the difference between endurance and enjoyment).

But this is a challenging play to say the least. Act 1 is familiar territory as Albee introduces his players, his zest for zingers and a juicy central mystery. In Act 2, the ground begins to wobble, and by Act 3, the ground has given way altogether. The monster, perhaps literally speaking, is loose.

Directing this play has been a decades-long obsession for MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, and his production clearly demonstrates the guiding hand of someone to whom the play’s mysteries are, if not clear, at least illuminated.

Minadakis has said he couldn’t do the play until he had just the right actors, and it’s good thing he waited as long as he did. The quintet at work on stage here is doing some mighty powerful work.

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Andrew Hurteau is the emotionally and spiritually conflicted center of the play as Brother Julian, a lay brother whose crisis of faith – seemingly in his past but powerful enough to institutionalize him for a number of years – makes him especially vulnerable to the machinations of those whose motives may not be pure.

The motives of the Cardinal (Richard Farrell) are quite clear. The Church has been promised $20 billion dollars from the estate of a young woman who, working through her lawyer, wants to spend time with a representative of the Church. That turns out to be Brother Julian. If Alice takes a shine to him, the Cardinal is a hero, and the Church is billions of dollars richer.
From their first, bizarre meeting, Julian and Alice create a bond. It would be hard not to be intrigued by Alice, especially as played by the beguiling Carrie Paff (looking gorgeous in elegant costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt).

The power dynamic between Paff and Hurteau, sometimes charged with sadistic thrill (Alice) and sometimes with wrenching heartbreak (Julian), never ceases to fascinate.

Alice also works a strange dynamic with her lawyer, played with aggressive intelligence and chilling malice by Rod Gnapp. They have a sexual relationship, but they’re in each other’s heads to a dangerous degree.

Alice’s trusty butler is always on hand to provide a quirky line or a bit of comfort – and Mark Anderson Phillips is a comfort indeed. He makes Butler (yes, that’s the butler’s name) as fascinating as everyone else, even though he functions on the periphery of the action. He, like Julian, seems a little more human than the devils conspiring to win the lay brother’s soul for reasons they won’t divulge until it’s too late (for Julian).

J.B. Wilson’s set (lit beautifully by Kurt Landisman actually becomes another character in the show. As Julian becomes more and more immersed in Alice’s world, he gets to know her mansion and the miniature replica of it that dominates the main drawing room.

I won’t say I understand where Albee is going with Tiny Alice, but I will say I enjoyed the ride. Asking questions about the nature of God and man’s relationship to spirituality is fascinating, especially in the hands of a compelling writer. Brother Julian, so fiercely and compassionately played by the astonishing Hurteau, has a tenuous relationship with God at best. The world of hallucination and reality are not comfortably defined for him, nor are they for us.


Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice continues through June 26 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. Tickets are $32-$53. Call 415-388-5208 or visit for information.

Theater review: `At Home at the Zoo’

Opened June 10, 2990 at American Conservatory Theater

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René Augesen is Ann and Anthony Fusco is Peter in the “Homelife” half of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, the final show of the American Conservatory Theater season. Photos by

Human beasts, growl, purr, bark in Albee’s revised `Home/Zoo’
«««« (four stars for Act 1) ««« (three stars for Act 2)

There are two Edward Albees on display in American Conservatory Theater’s season-ending At Home at the Zoo. We have the 30-year-old writer staking his first major dramatic claim in a one-act play called The Zoo Story, written in 1958 and produced the following year in Berlin on a double bill with Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Clearly the play marked the introduction of a major voice in American drama.

The other Albee on view here is the 76-year-old, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner with one of the most consistently surprising and long-lived careers on the American stage.

Guess which one trumps the other?

Albee’s The Zoo Story gained a companion play in 2004 at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut. Homelife took us into the private life of Peter, a publisher of, as he describes it, important but boring textbooks. He interacts with his wife, Ann, and after we delve into some sensitive marital waters, Zoo Story unfolds as we follow Peter to Central Park, where he encounters a somewhat off-balance younger man named Jerry.

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The complete evening, heretofore called Peter and Jerry, was renamed last year as At Home at the Zoo because Albee reportedly thought the other title conjured Ben & Jerry’s ice cream more than it did a drama about the difficulties inherent in living life to the fullest.

Director Rebecca Bayla Thompson’s production is beautifully directed, performed and designed. Set designer Robert Brill keeps the focus on the humans in Peter and Ann’s pristine beige apartment and then opens the stage up for the second-act move to Central Park, where Stephen Strawbridge’s lights cast a green hue on the back wall of the stage and sound designer Jake Rodriguez delicately weaves in the presence of man (cars, hubbub) and nature (birdsong).

Both acts, in their different ways, address one of Albee’s favorite topics: the monster that terrorizes and devours so many of us, which is to say the fear of life itself. And this is how the older Albee bests his younger self.

In the Zoo Story half, Albee gives us a study in contrasts with Peter (Anthony Fusco), the somewhat priggish, reasonably well-to-do executive interacting with the “permanent transient” Jerry (Manoel Felciano), a rooming house boarder with a desperate need to connect with a stranger. There’s a lot of talk, mostly by Jerry, in this 50-minute encounter about animals – a landlady’s aggressive hound, the caged animals in the zoo – and it’s clear that the beats somehow represent the life that we want to tame and cage.

This is Albee writing in large, metaphorical ways, and it’s fascinating, especially when you consider that this young writer was just beginning to unleash his talent. But the piece, even with certain updates, is dated. Jerry uses expressions (“hither and thither”?) that, safe to say, very few modern 30somethings would use. And are there really still rooming houses on New York’s Upper West Side?

The drama, though full of interesting writing and ideas, is grand and somewhat self-important. It’s interesting to watch expert actors like Fusco and Felciano grapple with the piece. Fusco mostly has to listen, but Felciano treads a delicate balance between Jerry’s compelling intellect and his threatening aggressiveness. He does so with a gathering sense of momentum that helps ground the play in something resembling reality even though it belongs more to the world of theatrical construction.

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That’s definitely not true of Homelife, which opens the evening. Fusco, playing opposite René Augesen as Ann, gets to reveal depths to Peter that we would never even guess at if we were only seeing the Zoo Story part of him. And Augesen gets to do some of her best work since last fall’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. The two actors find a natural, impeccable rhythm that makes it easy to relate to these middle-age marrieds who tacitly agreed at some point to a “smooth voyage on a safe ship.”

But now Ann is restless and dissatisfied – with her husband, with life, with herself – and has deep yearnings and misgivings. In the space of an extraordinary hour, she gets her husband to put down his book and engage in conversation with her that conjures that monster – the dark places we go in the small hours of the night. Husband and wife break through the politeness and habit of long-time marriage and hit on some sensitive, troublesome territory.

This is, in the best sense, theater for grown-ups.

Director Taichman orchestrates the body language and movement of the two actors with tremendous emphasis but virtually no artificiality. You can feel the audience hanging on every word, and it’s thrilling to experience dialogue that feels like action. The action of Act 2’s Zoo is more boisterous and dramatic, but you leave the theater still buzzing from the current generated in Act 1’s Home.


Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo continues through July 5 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $17-$82. Call 415-749-2228 or visit for information.

ACT announces 2008-09 season

There’s some juicy-good stuff in American Conservatory Theater’s newly announced 2008-09 season.

Here’s the rundown:

Rock ‘n’ Roll by Tom Stoppard (Sept. 11-Oct. 12) — Surprising no one, especially after Stoppard’s visit to ACT in January, the West Coast premiere of this London and New York hit will be directed by ACT artistic director Carey Perloff. The drama, Stoppard’s most autobiographical, follows a Czech man in England drawn back to the fight against the Soviets in his native Prague — and it’s all set to a suitably rocky soundtrack full of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

The Quality of Life by Jane Anderson (Oct. 24-Nov. 23) — Celebrity casting makes this already intriguing play even more so. Laurie Metcalf (worth seeing in just about anything) and JoBeth Williams (gone too long from movie screens) play cousins, one from the Midwest, one from the liberal Bay Area. When serious illness and the ravages of the Oakland hills fire bring them together, it turns out family and ideology aren’t such a good mix. A co-production with the Geffen Theatre and Jonathan Reinis Productions.

Rich and Famous by John Guare (Jan. 8-Feb. 8, 2009) — This marks the first major revival of Guare’s comedy about a playwright sruggling toward fame and fortune since its 1976 New York premiere.

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins by Stephen Temperly (Feb. 13-March 15, 2009) — If you want a sneak peek at this off-kilter musical biography, head down to San Jose Repertory Theatre, where the regional premiere of Souvenir opens this week starring Patti Cohenour. The ACT production will star Judy Kaye, right, (Mrs. Lovett in the Sweeney Todd that stopped at ACT last fall), who was nominated for the role in 2006. She plays Jenkins, a New York socialite who fancied herself an opera diva though she could hardly carry a tune.

War Music by Lillian Groag (March 26-April 26, 2009) — Poet Christopher Logue’s translation of Homer’s Iliad is adapted for the stage and directed by Groag, a regular player in the Bay Area theater scene (especially at California Shakespeare Theater of late). This world-premiere production re-tells the story of Achilles and his rival Agamemnon.

Boleros for the Disenchanted by Jose Rivera (May 7-June 7, 2009) — Rivera, the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter (The Motorcyle Diaries) pens the tale of four decades in the life of a Puerto Rican girl whose life ranges from her native land to American shores.

Peter and Jerry by Edward Albee (June 12-July 12, 2009) — Albee’s one-act The Zoo Story, his first play, written in 1958, is revisited and appended with a new first act, called Homelife. Rebecca Taichman directs the West Coast premiere of this revised version.

Also on the ACT stage, it almost goes without saying, is A Christmas Carol (Dec. 4-27). James Carpenter returns in the role of Scrooge.

Season subscriptions range start at $101 for all seven plays. Single tickets go on sale in August.
Call 415-749-2250 or visit for information.