To Sirs with love: Pinpointing Pinter at Berkeley Rep

Aug 12

To Sirs with love: Pinpointing Pinter at Berkeley Rep

What pure theatrical pleasure it is to spend two hours in the baffling world of playwright Harold Pinter with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart as our guides. These two fascinating craftsmen, under the direction of the equally astute Sean Mathias, are a show unto themselves in the choices they make, the characters they draw and the relationships they forge with each other and with the audience. No Man's Land may be about some sort of limbo between the vibrancy of youth and the incapacity of old age (or, more simply, between living life and just waiting for death), but in truth, it's a masterful workshop in which gifted thespians practice their craft.

Pinter's play itself is an enigma (as so many Pinter plays seem to be). What is actually going on? Well, two older gentlemen, Hirst (Stewart) and Spooner (McKellen) have met at a pub near London's Hampstead Heath and have returned to Hirst's well-appointed home for a few (dozen) nightcaps.

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Goode shines Light, Frankenstein lives

Jul 11

Goode shines <i>Light</i>, <i>Frankenstein</i> lives

If you need proof of how lively and diverse the San Francisco theater scene can be, let me direct your attention to two wildly different shows I've seen recently. One is about as old fashioned as it gets, while the other is wonderfully experimental.

For sheer retro-musical theater pleasures, Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein – at the Golden Gate Theatre until July 25 – is a prime example of Grade B goods. There was a time on Broadway – think the 1950s and early '60s – when these kinds of shows populated the Great White Way. Taking the term "musical comedy" to heart, these shows have no objective other than to please its audience for a couple of hours. A few laughs, a few hummable tunes, and we're done.

With The Producers Brooks fulfilled a lifelong passion to create a musical theater blockbuster. Now Brooks is settling into his groove with Young Frankenstein, an extremely faithful version of his classic 1974 movie (co-written with star Gene Wilder). As a recycler of his own material, Brooks sticks to the formula that worked for the movie and supplies songs that, while not as catchy as those in The Producers, are appealing.

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