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.

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SF Playhouse offers a sweet, satisfying Kiss

Nov 22

SF Playhouse offers a sweet, satisfying <i>Kiss</i>

San Francisco Playhouse puckers up and offers a nice juicy kiss for the holidays in Stage Kiss a delightfully daffy theatrical spin with a touch of real-life melancholy.

This is the first time we've seen Ruhl's play in San Francisco, but the whole Bay Area is alive with the sounds of Ruhl's empathetic, intelligent, often mystical take on life.

There's a reason Ruhl reigns over theater here (and across the country)...

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Marin Theatre Co. meditates on Ruhl’s poignant Boy

Sep 16

Marin Theatre Co. meditates on Ruhl’s poignant <i>Boy</i>

The plays of Sarah Ruhl are mightily appealing in their intelligence, sensitivity, beauty and depth. From Dead Man's Cell Phone to Eurydice (now at Shotgun Players) to In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, Ruhl makes the ordinary extraordinary and gives poetic voice to thoughtful, troubled lives that have a great deal to offer.

Now making its West Coast debut at Marin Theatre Company, Ruhl's The Oldest Boy is in some ways very conventional.

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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.

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Feeling the Passion of Sarah Ruhl

May 10

Feeling the <i>Passion</i> of Sarah Ruhl

What an interesting Sarah Ruhl moment we’re having.

Ruhl’s new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters is getting a moving and lovely production at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. And her 2005 triptych Passion Play receives its local premiere courtesy of Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, a community theater producing shows in Berkeley since 1957.

Both productions allow Ruhl to explore, in her lyrical, passionate and quirky ways, what happens to people when dreams and reality, identity and illusion are at odds.

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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.

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