Eclipsed demands attention at the Curran

Mar 12

<i>Eclipsed</i> demands attention at the Curran

Danai Gurira's intense, harrowing drama Eclipsed really only appeals to two kinds of people: those who care about women and those who care about basic human decency. Anyone else should stay home (or in the White House).

The history of humanity has not been kind to either of those groups, and Gurira offers a stark reminder that our so-called evolution hasn't progressed very far.

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A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Dec 22

A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Reviewing the shows I reviewed this year, I was struck by two things: first, and as usual, there’s an abundance of talented people doing great work at all levels of Bay Area theater; second, this was a lesser year in Bay Area theater. Perhaps the reason for the later has to do with the changes in the Bay Area itself – artists are fleeing outrageous rents,...

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Party People at Berkeley Rep: Necessary

Oct 25

<i>Party People</i> at Berkeley Rep: Necessary

There are ovations and there are ovations. The opening of an envelope gets a standing ovation these days, so the stand and clap doesn't really mean much anymore. But at the opening night of UNIVERSES' Party People at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the audience was instantly on its collective feet at show's end, applauding thunderously, shouting and hooting. The appreciative cast bowed, expressed gratitude and exited the stage. The house lights came on, and still the clamor continued. A few audience members exited the theater, but mostly the noise grew in intensity until the surprised cast had to return to the stage and bow yet again.

It seemed a fittingly over-the-top reaction to an ambitious, over-the-top show that leaves you feeling moved by the wheels of history and the vagaries of the human heart.

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Cal Shakes ends season with a moody Hamlet

Sep 23

Cal Shakes ends season with a moody <i>Hamlet</i>

On exactly the kind of temperate night for which they invented outdoor theater, California Shakespeare Theater opened the final show of the summer season. Hamlet, directed by Liesl Tommy (best known for her direction of Ruined at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in spring of last year) clocks in at about 3 hours and 10 minutes, and there are some glorious things in it. But on the whole, this Hamlet left me curiously unmoved.

But first here's what's good. Leroy McClain as Hamlet delivers a fascinating performance, pouring his heart and mind into the torrent of words that continuously pours out of the moody Dane's mouth. You don't have much of a Hamlet if you're not riveted by the title character, and McClain certainly puts on a good show.

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Ruined but resilient, horrifying but beautiful

Mar 03

<i>Ruined</i> but resilient, horrifying but beautiful

The evil that men do – and have done and continue to do – certainly does live after them. Shakespeare was so right about that. It lives and festers and poisons and leads to more evil.

This is incredibly apparent in Ruined, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play now on stage at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre.

Acts of unspeakable, incomprehensible violence occur, but it’s the echoes of those acts that ring most loudly in this compelling, ultimately shattering theatrical experience. There’s a war depicted on stage, but it’s not the chaotic, constantly shifting free-for-all of militias and government forces in East Africa. Rather, it’s the war waged on the bodies of thousands of that region’s women.

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