Flying high in Aurora’s Mud Blue Sky

Sep 18

Flying high in Aurora’s <i>Mud Blue Sky</i>

There's easy comedy and titillation to be had in choosing to explore the lives of flight attendants. You could blithely whip up a story detailing the lives we imagine those high-fliers live, with their easy access to great cities, hot coworkers and the occasional randy passenger. That story might be fun, but in truth, the days of "coffee, tea or me" are long past, and flying is a grind for everyone, from passengers to crew, and that may actually be the more interesting story.

Marisa Wegrzyn's Mud Blue Sky, now in an extended run through Oct. 3 at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company, tries to have it both ways.

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Aurora’s Fifth of July more cherry bomb than firework

May 07

Aurora’s <i>Fifth of July</i> more cherry bomb than firework

It's easy to imagine how, in 1978, Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July was remarkable for several reasons. It featured a loving gay couple at the center of its family-friend-reunion plot and didn't make a big deal about it. That's not what the play is about, but the couple and their relationship are as important as any other on stage. Also, the play wrestles with the repercussions of the 1960s anti-war movements and how all that passionate activism evolved, and in many cases, dissipated into the '70s.

Some have compared Wilson to Chekhov, and it's easy to see why...

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Aurora finds rapture in Boise

Nov 15

Aurora finds rapture in <i>Boise</i>

For a second time this fall theater season, a play is dealing with the Rapture, that moment when believers will ascend and everyone else...doesn't. First it was the young gay actor in the San Jose Repertory Theatre production of Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall (read my review here). He worried that as a believer, he would spend eternity without the comfort of his boyfriend, a non-believer, and the boyfriend kind of rolled his eyes and dismissed the whole Rapture thing as nonsense.

Now we have Samuel D. Hunter's A Bright New Boise at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company in which a staunch believer has his faith shaken by a terrible event at his northern Idaho church enclave (cult?) and attempts to make a fresh start in the bustling metropolis of Boise.

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Stravinsky and the sadness of a puppet Soldier

Nov 18

Stravinsky and the sadness of a puppet <i>Soldier</i>

As the weary soldier trudges down the road home, you see the weight of his exhaustion as well as his excitement to see his mother and fiancée in his every step. The remarkable thing is that this soldier – who goes by the name of Joseph – is a Bunraku-style puppet. All that extraordinary expression is coming from his puppeteer, Muriel Maffre, the San Francisco Ballet star who retired in 2007.

Along with Aurora Theatre Company artistic director Tom Ross, Maffre is the co-director of The Soldier's Story, a theatrical fusion of music, dance, puppetry and storytelling that carries a melancholy charm for its brief 75 minutes. Much of that charm comes from Maffre, who also dances the role of the King's daughter, who falls under Joseph's spell.

It's easy to succumb to this Tale.

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Aurora tips Albee’s Balance delicately

Sep 09

Aurora tips Albee’s <i>Balance</i> delicately

Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance only looks like a suburban comedy. It's really an existential nightmare slightly more gussied up than your average slasher movie. Oh, blood flows in this eviscerating drama, but it's of a more metaphorical variety than you'll find in the Saw franchise. Between the ravages of time and the mighty pen of Albee, the family on stage has absolutely no chance at all.

And their demise is so very delicious. (Also delicious: Albee himself was in the audience for Thursday's opening-night performance.)

A Delicate Balance opens Aurora's 20th season, and as directed by Artistic Director Tom Ross, it's a perfect example of why the Aurora is such a glorious part of the Bay Area theater scene. An intimate theater and a thrust stage so deep it's practically in the round make the Aurora a crucible in which outstanding writing and superb performances combine and, with luck and a good director, ignite. To watch an actor lose herself or himself in an exquisitely crafted part is one of the greatest pleasures in the theater, and there's no better vantage point for this than the Aurora.

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Of pleasures and Eccentricities

Apr 20

Of pleasures and <i>Eccentricities</i>

Oh, Alma Winemiller. If you had been able to shuck off the burden of having an insane mother and a stern Episcopalian priest for a father, you might have become the woman you were meant to be: Lady Gaga.

OK, that's an exaggeration, but poor Alma is just a heap of talent and emotion and expression aching for release in Tennessee Williams' Eccentricities of a Nightingale, a play with a convoluted history in the Tennessee Williams canon. The Aurora Theatre Company production of the play, directed with finesse and warmth by Artistic Director Tom Ross, makes a case for the play being if not alongside siblings like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, then at least in an honorable spot somewhere just below.

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