Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush Velvet

May 25

Racism, history and drama in SF Playhouse’s plush <i>Velvet</i>

In its West Coast premiere production at San Francisco Playhouse, Red Velvet provides a plum starring role for the great Carl Lumbly, who tackles the role of Ira Aldridge with depth and gravity. This is a serious actor playing a serious actor whose concern is more for getting the role right than playing into the bile being spewed in his general direction for daring to be a black man playing a black man in the ultra-white world of the theater.

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Tracking big Game: Delving into Afghanistan at Berkeley Rep

Oct 24

Tracking big <i>Game</i>: Delving into Afghanistan at Berkeley Rep

Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, gazes over a map of Afghanistan and says to Abdur Rahman, the country's Amir, "Your country is in the wrong place."

That imagined pronouncement could have occurred in 1893, when Ron Hutchinson's play Durand's Line, takes place. Or it could be an echo that reverberates through much of Afghanistan's complex and troubled history – at least the chunks of history we experience in The Great Game: Afghanistan, an extraordinary theater event now in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Roda Theatre.

A hit for London's Tricycle Theatre, a company known for connecting audiences with plays of political and historical import, The Great Game is now touring the U.S. with a three-part cycle of 12 one-act plays (and assorted interstitial monologues), all about Afghanistan from the 1800s to present day. Tricycle Artistic Director Nicolas Kent felt that all the attention was going Iraq and the war raging there with not enough focus on Afghanistan and the war raging there. So he commissioned a bunch of playwrights to write about the country, and this powerfully involving theatrical marathon is the result.

Berkeley Rep is presenting Part One, 1842-1930, Invasions & Independence on Wednesdays; Part Two, 1979-1996, Communism, the Mujahideen & the Taliban on Thursdays; and Part Three, 1996-2010, Enduring Freedom on Fridays. Then all three parts are presented in marathon viewings on Saturdays and Sundays. For opening day last Friday, we were able to see all three parts. We started at 11:30am and finished shortly after 10:30pm. Box meals are available in the theater lobby so patrons can keep their strength up, and a number of local restaurants offer prix-fixe menus to ensure that patrons enjoy a hearty meal and get back to the theater in time.

This really is a staggering event, and you have to get your head in the right place to enjoy it.

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