Vivacious Aztec tunefully reclaims, re-writes Latinx history

Jun 07

Vivacious <i>Aztec</i> tunefully reclaims, re-writes Latinx history

After 33 years at Berkeley Repertory Theatre – 22 as artistic director – Tony Taccone is taking a final bow with Kiss My Aztec, a world-premiere musical that serves as a fitting farewell. Hatched from the fervid mind of John Leguizamo, the show hits a lot of Taccone hot spots. It attempts to stick it to the white man (in this case, the Spanish conquistadors who colonized, destroyed and attempted to erase Aztec civilization) while re-writing history with a focus on those who should have had a hand in recording it in the first place. It's a sprawling, inclusive, celebratory explosion of energy that continually lobs truth bombs at its audience through crude, incisive, often hilarious lines and lyrics.

Read More

Hymns of praise for Kushner’s Angels at Berkeley Rep

Apr 29

Hymns of praise for Kushner’s <i>Angels</i> at Berkeley Rep

Angels in America is back in the Bay Area, this time at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it is directed by Tony Taccone, who, with Oskar Eustis helped bring this play into the world when it premiered at their Eureka Theatre in 1991. The play's staggering genius is on full display in Taccone's marvelous production, as is Kushner's prescience (Russia, Republican politics, the environmental crisis).

Read More

Imaginary discomfort rules at Berkeley Rep

Oct 13

<i>Imaginary</i> discomfort rules at Berkeley Rep

The first time I head the title for the new play by Daniel Handler, the San Francisco writer behind the popular Lemony Snicket books, I was confused. Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit is the title, and it wasn't the Snickety-y subtitle that perplexed me. It was the notion that comfort could be imaginary. Isn't comfort comforting no matter where it comes from? You can receive comfort from an external source (a parent, a pet, a narcotic) or you can just imagine comfort (memory, dream, hallucination), but as long as you are comforted, job done...at least for a little while, right?

Read More

Berkeley Rep’s warning: it can so happen here

Oct 01

Berkeley Rep’s warning: it can <i>so</i> happen here

Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s It Can’t Happen Here is a nightmare on so many levels, and that’s mostly a good thing in the world-premiere adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel.

This is the right story at the right time, and therein lies the dark heart of this nightmare.

Read More

Quiet beauty, deep feeling in Berkeley Rep’s Aubergine

Feb 13

Quiet beauty, deep feeling in Berkeley Rep’s <i>Aubergine</i>

Setting aside taxes for the moment, there are two certainties in life: we will eat food (and perhaps have a complicated relationship with food) and we will die (and perhaps have a complicated relationship with death). Food and death. Elemental.

In Julia Cho's Aubergine, now receiving its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's newly renovated and renamed Peet's Theatre (formerly the Thrust Stage), those elements – food and death – are being addressed with the utmost compassion, grace and quiet dignity.

Read More

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.

Read More