Slammed door opens in Doll’s House, Part 2 at Berkeley Rep

Sep 14

Slammed door opens in <i>Doll’s House, Part 2</i> at Berkeley Rep

Playwright Lucas Hnath imagines what happened to Nora after she stepped through that door in the audaciously titled A Doll's House, Part 2, which opens the Berkeley Repertory Theatre season in a razor-sharp, vital and funny production directed by Les Waters.

Read More

Ruhl peters out in Berkeley Rep’s For Peter Pan

May 28

Ruhl peters out in Berkeley Rep’s <i>For Peter Pan</i>

Sarah Ruhl is a brilliant writer capable of intellectual heights and emotional depths. Her latest play, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, now at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre, displays few of those qualities.

Paired with director Les Waters with whom she worked so memorably on Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) at Berkeley Rep, Ruhl is working in mysterious ways here.

Read More

Sweet melancholy pervades Berkeley Rep’s Elizabeth

May 30

Sweet melancholy pervades Berkeley Rep’s <i>Elizabeth</i>

You would never, ever expect to see a production of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. In what has become a staple of community theaters everywhere, a man and a woman sit at a table and read letters from a binder that tell the story of their characters' slowly evolving love story over many decades. It's sweet, it's conventional, it's incredibly cheap to produce. Unless the two actors were Rita Moreno and David Sedaris, this epistolary play would be the antithesis of a Berkeley Rep production. All this talk of Love Letters because there's a new two-person, letter-driven love story on the theatrical block: Sarah Ruhl's Dear Elizabeth, now at Berkeley Rep.

Read More

Berkeley Rep’s pulsating Red

Mar 24

Berkeley Rep’s pulsating <i>Red</i>

You've heard that insulting phrase, "As exciting as watching paint dry." Well in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Red, you do watch paint dry, and it's surprisingly exciting.

This is one of those new American dramas that arrives at the local regional level lauded with awards and high expectations. John Logan's drama won a passel of Tony Awards, including Best Play, so it wouldn't be surprising if audience members showed up with minds made up one way or the other – oh, this is going to be good because the people in New York (and London) say it is; or, oh, there's no way this can actually be good because it has received too much praise.

It's the kind of artistic situation about which painter Mark Rothko, the subject of Logan's play, would have a definite, probably loud, opinion.

Writing a play about a volcanic talent like Rothko can't help but tame him in some ways.

Read More

Vodka, misery and beauty: family time with Three Sisters

Apr 14

Vodka, misery and beauty: family time with <i>Three Sisters</i>

Time aches in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s elegiac Three Sisters. The past is where true happiness lived (in Moscow), and the future holds the promise of reviving that happiness (in Moscow). But the present (not in Moscow) is just a painful stretch to be endured and lamented.

That Anton Chekhov was a harvester of human souls, and the crop he tended was ripe with sorrow, loss and, perhaps worst of all, indifference. This is readily apparent in director Les Waters’ production of Three Sisters on the intimate Thrust Stage.

There’s warmth and humor emanating from the stage as we meet the soldiers, staff and sisters in a well-appointed country home, but once we get to know the characters a little bit, it’s one big stream of thwarted desire, boredom, frustration and self-delusion.

It sounds like misery, but between Chekhov and Waters, we’re treated to an exquisitely staged, deeply compassionate exploration of mostly unhappy people.

Read More

Where there’s a Will…

Apr 04

Where there’s a Will…

Recently I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with playwright Will Eno, whose Lady Grey (in ever lower light) and other plays closes this weekend at Cutting Ball Theater.

Read the interview in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

There was more interview than there was room in the newspaper, so please enjoy the rest of Mr. Eno's responses.

Q: Dogs tend to pop up in your work, or more specifically, the deaths of dogs. Does this mean you’re a dog lover or the opposite?

A: I am solidly and proudly a dog lover. I even sometimes think of this as an enlightened position, a paradoxically humane approach to the world. Other times, though, I worry that I love dogs because I love to imagine a world in which there are only about three total feelings and three total needs, and it never gets more complicated than that. “Yes, I want to go for a walk. Yes, I’m hungry. Yes, thank you, I would like to climb up on your leg. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go around in circles and then fall asleep until I wake up barking and run over to the door.” The great dogs in my life have made me feel like I’m a good and trustworthy person. They allow you to live on or near an essential level that is just fairly basic and stable needs, and once those are taken care of, it’s all cats and shiny hubcaps and tennis balls.

Read More