Jonesing for cosmic connection in ACT’s Joneses

Mar 17

Jonesing for cosmic connection in ACT’s <i>Joneses</i>

The topic is: things that have happened. That broad, yet somehow quite specific, statement comes from a character in Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses now on stage at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater. Another broad yet specific topic might be: lives that are lived.

Eno is one of those playwrights whose gift seems to be making raising the bizarre, often absurd experience of human existence to the level of cosmic grace and beauty.

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Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s Seminar

May 08

Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s <i>Seminar</i>

The ego, the insecurity and the courage of fiction writers are all on hilarious and intriguing display in Theresa Rebeck's Seminar, a one-act comedy that derives laughter from pain and theatrical pleasure from whiplash-smart word play.

The premise is simple: four New York writers have paid $5,000 each for 10 weekly classes with a famous writer. They meet in the beautiful (and rent controlled) apartment of one classmate and wait anxiously for the globe-trotting famous guy, who can't really be bothered to remember their names, to pass judgement on their work.

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Wonky tone buries Magic’s Buried Child

Sep 18

Wonky tone buries Magic’s <i>Buried Child</i>

By all rights, the Magic Theatre's season-opening production of Buried Child by Sam Shepard, the man who helped build the Magic's national reputation during his 12-year stay from the mid-'70s into the early '80s, should be a triumph. Continuing the five-year Sheparding America celebration of the writer's work, the production should be a potent reminder of just how electrifying, unsettling and beautiful Shepard's writing can be.

This is not that production.

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Magic Up Against some funny creeps

Feb 11

Magic <i>Up Against</i> some funny creeps

Playwright Theresa Rebeck, a master of barbed contemporary dialogue, conducts an interesting experiment in the Magic Theatre’s world premiere of What We’re Up Against.

Her Petri dish is a big-city architectural firm – all glass and metal in Skip Mercier’s sleek, mostly black, white and gray set. Her chosen bacteria: the architects, all of whom turn out to be antiseptic assholes.

To stir the chemical reactions, Rebeck introduces elements commonly found in the workplace: power plays, raging sexism, vaulting ambition, moronic behavior and that ever-powerful agent, greed.

The architects at this particular firm are mostly isolated from the outside world. We hear about some client interaction, but the focus of their activity is internal. There’s not talk of spouses, significant others, children, parents, pets, groceries or dry cleaning. This nearly two-hour, two-act drama (with some hearty if stinging comedy) has a sharp focus and that is unpleasant behavior from unpleasant people.

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Guest critic Leslie Ribovich reviews `Busy World’

Jun 22

As a critic at the Oakland Tribune and its sister newspapers, one of my greatest pleasures was instituting a teen theater critic internship, and it was my luck to launch the program with Leslie Ribovich, who was then a senior at Albany High School. For much of her final year in high school, she would accompany me to shows and write her own reviews, which than ran in...

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Review: `The Busy World Is Hushed’

Jun 20

Opened June 19, 2008 at the Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley   Anne Darragh (left) is an Episcopalian minister and Chad Deverman is her writing assistant in Keith Bunin’s The Busy World Is Hushed at the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. Photos by David Allen   Thoughts on faith, love, family make noise in Hushed««« ½ Aurora Theatre Company...

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