Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s Erik

Feb 05

Uneasy comedy, drama (+Rat Wife!) in Aurora’s <i>Erik</i>

There's a profoundly creepy core to Little Erik the new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1894 Little Eyolf by Mark Jackson, one of the Bay Area's foremost theater artists. That creepiness is the best thing about the 80-minute one-act now at the Aurora Theatre Company. Though even in its brevity, the play can't quite command its shifting tones.

Ibsen's Eyolf probably won't be found on any of his best-of compilations, but Jackson...

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Ramping up the teenage angst in Crowded Fire’s Truck Stop

Oct 06

Ramping up the teenage angst in Crowded Fire’s <i>Truck Stop</i>

The whole time I was watching Lachlan Philpott's Truck Stop, a Crowded Fire Theater production at Thick House, I was working myself into a state of anxiety imagining being the parent of a teenage girl. How do you fight the global objectification of women and instill a sense of self-worth that comes as much from intellectual, spiritual, emotional places and not just the physical and sexual, which it seems is all the world cares about if you're watching TV or movies, reading magazines or listening to music.

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Love and loathing in Berkeley Rep’s football drama

Jan 24

Love and loathing in Berkeley Rep’s football drama

A critic's personal feelings or attachment to a subject are often irrelevant when it comes to writing about a particular play. But in the case of Berkeley Repertory Theatre's world premiere of X'x and O's (A Football Love Story), I feel I have to disclose a strong personal bias. I loathe football. LOATHE it, and have all my life. That's my dad and my brother's territory. I'll be in my room canoodling with stereotypes and listening to Broadway cast albums. Sports in general have never interested me much, but no other sporting activity do I actively detest and strenuously ignore as much as loud, violent, overblown football.

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Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s Rapture

Sep 05

Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s <i>Rapture</i>

There's an observation about Internet porn in Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company that is at once hilarious and trenchant. A college woman encapsulates the ease of access to porn this way: "Once you get directions from Google Maps, it seems such a hassle to unfold an actual map."

Generational differences and technology come into play a lot in Rapture, a crackling season opener for the Aurora. Gionfriddo is a smart, feisty writer who knows her way around a joke that always contains more than a laugh. She tackles the gargantuan issue of feminism and its evolution into the 21st century and comes through with a stage full of surprising, complicated characters having passionate, always intriguing discussions.

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Crowded Fire saddles up comic Horses

Mar 25

Crowded Fire saddles up comic <i>Horses</i>

There's something very sly at work in She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange, the world-premiere from Amelia Roper with Crowded Fire Theater at the Thick House. From looking at the vivid, sharply designed set by Maya Linke, with its paper sculpture trees and angled artificial grass, it's clear this is not going to be just any walk in the park.

But that's exactly how the play starts: a Sunday in a suburban Connecticut park...

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Shrew you, shutdown! The Taming gets it right

Oct 08

Shrew you, shutdown! <i>The Taming</i> gets it right

The word factions is uttered in a way that makes it sound like the filthiest word you can imagine. And, in these tense government shutdown days, it actually is. But when James Madison says the word, you feel it whistling through the centuries like an airborne bomb that keeps exploding every time political idiocy allows factions (it's such an easy word to say with loathing) to hijack democracy.

The world premiere of San Francisco playwright Lauren Gunderson's The Taming couldn't come at a more volatile time. Our government just happens to be in the middle of a crisis that was anticipated, according to Gunderson's play, by our founding fathers. The wise Mr. Madison did his best to avert the power of the special interests, but he compromised to keep our fledgling country steady and strong, at least to start.

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