Here’s what for the How and the Why at Aurora

Mar 25

Here’s what for the <i>How and the Why</i> at Aurora

Watching a play like Sarah Treem's The How and the Why makes me feel smarter – fractionally but still. To prove my point, I'm going to quote Ernst Mayr, an evolutionary biologist with whom I was unfamiliar before this play. Mayr, as we're told in the play, was interested in the how and the why of things, the mechanism and the function.

Let's apply that to Treem's play, shall we? The how is pretty clear...

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Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to Church

Dec 06

Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to <i>Church</i>

In many ways, John Patrick Shanley's Storefront Church, now at San Francisco Playhouse for a well-timed holiday run, is less about the battle between the material world and the spiritual world and more about finding the most personal of solutions to the stress and pull and darkness of life: being still.

In such a hectic world, stillness seems practically revolutionary, but that's where the Rev. Chester Kimmich (Carl Lumbly) finds himself: in stillness waiting for an answer or a way to cross the giant black hole that has opened up before him.

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Personal is political in Aurora’s fiery Revolution

Sep 06

Personal is political in Aurora’s fiery <i>Revolution</i>

Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company opens its 22nd season with Amy Herzog's smart, moving drama After the Revolution, an ambitious play that juggles American history, the cost of political idealism and how one generation affects another – for good and ill – in a tight-knit family.

This is the same Herzog whose 4000 Miles was so good at American Conservatory Theater earlier this year (read my review here), and this play, which predates 4000 Miles, also features the character of Vera Joseph (who is based on Herzog's own grandmother).

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Marin offers a real beauty of a Queen

May 29

Marin offers a real beauty of a <i>Queen</i>

Watching Joy Carlin work her magic Mag Folan in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the epitome of theatrical delight. Here you have one of the great Bay Area actors offering a sly, darkly humorous, even compassionate portrayal of a woman who could easily be described as a nightmare. Carlin, like the character she's playing, appears to be a lovely older woman. But perhaps unlike Carlin, Mag is something of a sociopath. And that's a trait she's passed along to the youngest of her three daughters, Maureen, played with sinewy gusto by Beth Wilmurt.

That mother-daughter relationship is the crux of Beauty Queen, and the source of its humor, its drama and its horror. Director Mark Jackson's production for Marin Theatre Company etches that relationship with realism and a savory dash of melodrama.

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Aurora’s Heaven falls well short

Feb 01

Aurora’s <i>Heaven</i> falls well short

There's a lot to like in the world premiere of Anthony Clarvoe's family drama Our Practical Heaven at Aurora Theatre Company. Laughs come frequently, the production itself – full of light and space – is lovely and the six women in the cast are all quite interesting.

If only there were more snap, both dark and comic, in Clarvoe's play.

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Four hot bodies heat up Aurora’s Body Awareness

Feb 03

Four hot bodies heat up Aurora’s <i>Body Awareness</i>

Drama in the small college town of Shirley, Vermont, is much like it is anywhere: small, intimate and, for the people involved, earth shattering.

Playwright Annie Baker, one of the theater world's most acclaimed and buzzed-about writers, has a particular skill in writing about the lives of ordinary people. She's acutely aware of the comic absurdity and the fissures of sadness and anger that clash continually and cause tremors, both minor and majorly damaging.

Baker is a humane and very funny writer, and the Bay Area is finally getting a taste of her talent in the Aurora Theatre Company's utterly delightful production of her Body Awareness. In true Aurora form, the production gives us a meaty play and performances by a quartet of Bay Area actors that defy you to find a false moment in this up-close and intimate space.

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