SF Playhouse’s Stupid Bird f##king soars

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Nina (Martha Brigham) and Conrad (Adam Magill) prepare to present a play for family and friends in the San Francisco Playhouse production of Stupid Fucking Bird by Aaron Posner. Below: An Act 2 fast forward takes us four years ahead into the lives of characters played by (from left) Joseph Estlack, El Beh, Charles Shaw Robinson, Carrie Paff and Johnny Moreno. Photos by Jessica Palopoli

In Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, an energizing riff on Chekhov’s The Seagull, a playwright laments that what he’s written is just another play where nothing real happens. You can’t really say the same thing about Posner’s play.

Bird doesn’t change the world, as the fictional playwright at one point says that theater should aim to do, but it does rattle the theatrical cage and clears away some musty clouds that hover over business as usual. It’s irreverent, gutsy, funny and even moving – everything you want Chekhov to be but so rarely find in his productions. Posner has his characters refer to what he’s doing as a “deconstruction” and a “rip-off” of Chekhov, but what he’s really doing is finding the essential heart of the original and providing new-and-improved access for a contemporary audience. In interviews, Posner repeatedly refers to Chekhov’s work being a “playground” that appeals to him, and that feels just right. Different rides – a slide, a swing, a merry-go-ground – providing different sensations but all immersive and contributing to an overall experience.

On the set of the Playhouse’s Bird there’s not one but two swings: one from a pier over a lake and one a more traditional push or pump variety. We’re at the lake house of a famous movie/stage actress, the ideal playground for the lovelorn, which pretty much everyone is here.

Posner follows the Chekhov blueprint like someone who knows and loves his Chekhov but is ready to do his own thing. He gathers seven people, some related by blood, some by choice and others by longing. Emma (Carrie Paff) is the vain star, and Trig (Johnny Moreno) is the world-famous writer who now shares her bed. Emma’s son is the tortured Conrad (Adam Magill), who is deeply, painfully in love with his lovely neighbor, Nina (Martha Brigham, a radiant blend of Julia Roberts and Lili Taylor both in looks and talent). Nina does not return his affections, but she does get swept up into the celebrity and literary genius of Trig, thus compounding Conrad’s misery.

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The all-in-black Mash (El Beh) has been pining for Conrad for years, but he’s too caught up in Nina to notice, so Mash works out her longings with sad songs played on the ukulele. Dev (an endearingly understated Joseph Estlack) loves Mash and lets her know it, but he’s not the dramatic sort. He doesn’t moon and swoon and self-flagellate (he mishears that word as “self-flatulate” and wonders how that even works). Unlike the other divas who surround him, he’s a grounded, funny guy. He’s aware he comes across as sort of a boob, but the advantage to that is people underestimating just how much you notice going on around you. There’s another person on the periphery of the drama, Emma’s doctor brother Sorn (Charles Shaw Robinson), a man who plays a mean clarinet, longs for a monthlong hug (from whom remains a mystery) and reviles his chosen profession: “All those sick people!”

Once all of this is set up, Posner wastes no time bashing through the fourth wall, allowing his characters to share with the audience that they are well aware they are in a play and that they are watching the audience almost as much as the audience is watching them. From that point on, the vibe in the theater changes. The artificiality is acknowledged and toyed with, and that suddenly, somewhat mysteriously makes the characters and their situations more real and more interesting. While Conrad at first bemoans the state of theater (“the one we’re doing this play in seems all right”) and how it’s essentially boring and not enlarging people’s minds or hearts and so we need new, new, new forms. There’s a petulant, whiny tone to some of this, but by play’s end (which takes us four years into the future), it’s not new forms he seeks but doing the traditional thing better. After all, he reasons, certain elements like protagonist, antagonist, climax, denouement and catharsis have been around for thousands of years for a reason.

Is Posner doing the traditional thing better? Yes. With the help of director Susi Damilano and her exceptional cast, he pushes us to think about what we’re experiencing and then challenges us to truly feel what we’re experiencing. He allows each character to be more interesting than we might have imagined, and though Act 2 feels less successful than the first and finding an ending proves elusive, he takes us to a place that feels more alive, more thoughtful and, ultimately, more soulful than we might be used to going. That’s pretty f##king amazing.

[bonus interview]
I talked to Stupid Fucking Bird playwright Aaron Posner for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the interview here.

Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird continues through May 2 at the San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $20-$120. Call 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org.

Why won’t Baryshnikov smile?

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Tymberly Canale and Mikhail Baryshnikov perform a subtle pas de deux between an unmarried man and a married woman in About Love, the second piece featured in Man in a Case at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Below: Canale is Barbara, an outgoing Ukrainian beauty, who dances for Baryshnikov’s Belikov, while and Aaron Mattocks as Kovalenko, Barbara’s brother, keeps a wary eye. Photos by T. Charles Erickson

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mikhail Baryshnikov has once again crossed paths with high art. The legendary dancer has aged into a successful career as an actor/performance artist. At 66, he could simply retire. Or teach. But he continues to push himself in new directions.

This time out he is working with Big Dance Theater’s Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar to adapt to Anton Chekhov short stories (“Man in a Case” and “About Love”) from later in the celebrated writer’s career. But these aren’t simple, straightforward adaptations. No, these are video installations. These are dance-movement pieces. These are expertly designed, often strikingly beautiful stage picture. In short, Man in a Case is performance art that did not forget about telling a story.

Chekhov’s conceit of turkey hunters telling each other stories comes to the stage almost as a radio play with Chris Giarmo and Lazar speaking into microphones at a table. Baryshnikov enters quite casually and becomes Belikov, the subject of the first story, a school official who has encased himself in the severity of routine. He is universally feared and completely closed off to the world until he meets Barbara (Tymberly Canale) a Ukrainian lady (described as a “sugarplum”) kept under the watchful eye of her brother (Aaron Mattocks). Belikov and Barbara embark on an awkward courtship, much of which is (oddly and delightfully) set to Carly Simon’s “Coming Around Again.” But a man as rigid as Belikov will not fall into the uneven, vulnerable rhythms of love easily, and tragedy ensues.

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The second story, about an unmarried man who falls for a married woman and lets years pass without doing anything about it, allows Baryshnikov to dance – a little. Throughout, there’s definite choreographed movement (by Parson), but here we get some actual dancing, and then there’s a stunning high-tech video moment with Baryshnikov and Canale on the floor with a camera watching them from above and projecting their images on the rear of the set, Busby Berkeley style.

Video (designed by Jeff Larson, who appears on stage alongside sound designer Tei Blow) plays an enormous role in this 75-minute show, but it somehow never dominates. There are screens all over the place, but they’re not automated. Humans actually have to go pull them down and them put them back up. When Belikov goes to sleep, his bed curtains surround the bed and become yet another screen to capture his dreams. When there’s a standoff on the steep staircase behind the main playing area, a camera at the top captures the event, and the projected image looks like something from a European movie from the 1950s.

The soundscape, from ticking clocks to the click-clack of a train on the rails, also includes some live music making (guitars, accordions) and one especially striking sequence involving choral singing at a funeral. With so much storytelling, singing and exposing of the theatrical machine, it’s hard not to think about Kneehigh, which was so recently on this very stage.

The video and the music and the movement combine to help the actors tell the stories, which, even with all the high-tech, high-art trappings, are infused with Chekhovian melancholy. Maybe that’s why Baryshnikov looks so dour through so much of the show. Sure it’d be great to see him smile, but when you think about it, men in cases of their own making and men suffering from years of unrequited love don’t really have much to smile about. But watching Baryshnikov work, we certainly do.

Big Dance Theater’s Man in a Case continues through Feb. 16 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $45-$125 (subject to chang). Call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.

Vodka, misery and beauty: family time with Three Sisters

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Chekhov’s three sisters, (from left) Natalia Payne as Masha, Heather Wood as Irina and Wendy Rich Stetson as Olga contemplate the far-off dream of returning to Moscow in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Three Sisters. Below: moments of merriment relieve some of the Russian gloom. Photos by mellopix.com

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 a beautifully staged, deeply compassionate exploration of mostly unhappy people.

When you walk into the Thrust and drink in Annie Smart’s gorgeous set, it’s the first indication that we’re in good hands. We see two stories of the country home, with the focus on the dining room and an adjacent living room/parlor. Through the windows, we see falling snow and an elegant stand of birch trees (exquisitely lit by Alexander V. Nichols).

It’s a comfortable home – perhaps a little cramped, but that’s as it should be. We hear repeatedly that this small provincial town is claustrophobic with everybody up in everybody else’s business. That’s certainly true here – especially in the dining room when 13 people are sharing a meal.

To see such a large, capable cast on such a relatively small stage makes you feel like you’re part of the action. You’re at that crowded dinner table enjoying shots of vodka. You’re in the nursery on the night of the devastating fire looking to escape from the smoky chaos.

Waters’ production pulls you in from the beginning and doesn’t let you go for an emotionally wrenching three hours.

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In some ways, the play does seem long because the characters are so aware of time’s slow passage and everything time is not providing for them, but there’s such attention to detail in the performances, so much to enjoy and savor, that the running time feels immaterial.

Waters is using a new version of Three Sisters by Sarah Ruhl (based on a literal translation by Elise Thoron with Natalya Paramonova and Kristin Johnsen-Neshati), and as much as I love Ruhl, I had mixed feelings about the sometimes awkward mix of formal and casual language in her script.

But when actors connect to the characters, the actual words tend to matter less. For evidence of this, look no further than Natalia Payne as middle sister Masha and Bruce McKenzie as Vershinin, the married soldier who captures the equally married sister’s heart.

These two spar, flirt and fall in love with such passion – most of which has to be conveyed on the down low – that you can’t help hoping that happiness comes to someone in the play, even at the cost of their respective spouses’ feelings. These two actors crackle, and their bitterness toward their real lives is acute. Here’s a typical Masha observation: “What a miserable goddamn life.”

Oldest sister Olga (Wendy Rich Stetson) is, as one character describes her, “so good, so tortured.” Stetson’s performance is so grounded in reality, so believable that you root for her to escape her misery as the world’s most reluctant headmistress.

And Heather Wood as Irina, the baby, makes a sadly believable transition from idealistic young woman to beaten down office drone whose indefatigable hope turns out to have an expiration date.

The whole cast – resplendent in Ilona Somogyi’s turn-of-the-20th-century costumes – offers performance gems throughout. Some of my favorite moments involved David Abrams as Fedotik bringing Irina a hauntingly melodic top for her birthday and Olga and Irina enjoying bedtime small talk from behind the relative privacy of their respective bed screens.

James Carpenter as crumbling doctor Chebutykin creates a vivid impression of a man slowly receding from life. He is chided for loving the three sisters too much (he was in love with their mother), which cuts him to the quick. And later in the play, he suffers a complete emotional breakdown that is devastating to watch.

There’s a lot of crying in this play – and the most intense tears come from the men.

It’s an affecting play, deeply emotional but more apt to inspire contemplative reverie than depression even though it is awfully sad. There’s a pain in these people, and we recognize it because it hasn’t changed much in 111 years. It’s the endurance of time and the awareness that life, for all its trouble and angst, can end up amounting to not much.


Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Three Sisters continues through May 22 on the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $34-$73. Call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org for information.

Marin’s Seagull: a Chekhovian reverie

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The cast of Marin Theatre Company’s Seagull, including (from left) Peter Ruocco, Christine Albright, Michael Ray Wisely and Tess Malis Kincaid, star in the world premiere of a new version by Libby Appel. Below: Craig Marker is Trigorin and Christine Albright is Nina. Photos by davidallenstudio.com

[warning: many long Russian names ahead – think of them as caviar on toast]

As long as we live in a world where celebrity and art continually clash, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull will feel extraordinarily timely. And as long as people are restless, stingy and full of dreams, Chekhov will continue to offer extraordinary insight to his audiences.

It’s amazing that a flop play from 1896 has become such a resonant classic. From our perspective, Chekhov had the disadvantage of writing in Russian, which means his work has to be filtered through a translator/adaptor – and there have been some big names attached to that duty. Tennessee Williams did it with his “free adaptation” The Notebook of Trigorin. Playwrights Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and Christopher Hampton have all done it as well.

Now former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Libby Appel (working from a literal translation by Allison Horsley) brings us her version (a commission of OSF) in a world-premiere production at Marin Theatre Company under the direction of Jasson Minadakis.

This version adds in material that was cut from the original production, either by director Constantin Stanislavski or by government censors. MTC promotional materials maintain these cut scenes and lines have never been performed, so it’s practically a new Chekhov.

Except it’s not. This is Seagull (Marin cuts off the The) is what we’ve always known – artists in the country fighting and loving amongst themselves and their troubled hearts. But there’s a little extra, especially for the character of Polina, who is married to one man and openly in love with another.

This material can actually be quite repetitive, but this production has the great advantage of Polina being played by Julia Brothers, who makes what could be a whiny, annoying woman quite a compassionate soul.

Otherwise, Appel’s adaptation feels contemporary without straining and allows some of the emotional subtext to brim over into passionate language.

From the opening moments, when we see a black-clad Marya Ilyinichna (Liz Sklar) grieving for her sad life, a fog of rueful melancholy hangs over the bright green grass of Robert Mark Morgan’s lakeside set (which gets a little heavy on the penitentiary-like birch trees by play’s end). And that’s probably how Chekhov would have liked it – as long as there were also laughs, which there are.

Seagull 1Four wonderful actors vividly inhabit the central quartet of this rural drama. I wasn’t at all sure of Tess Malis Kincaid as famous actress Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina when she entered in the first act to watch her son’s al fresco play. She didn’t seem to have the weight or the bigger-than-life charm of an actress who is always starring in her own four-star drama.

But by the time she’s desperately trying to keep her love, the celebrated writer Boris Alekseyevich Trigorin (a masterful Craig Marker) from the arms of a younger, prettier woman, her desperation and insecurity poured from the stage.

Marker’s scenes with Christine Albright as Nina, the sweet local girl and aspiring actress, are the play’s best and most emotionally acute. They are two beautiful people caught up in the madness of their art. She’s consumed by dreams of greatness, and he’s caught up in his own cloud of celebrity, acclaim and the requisite self-doubt. Of course they’re going to dazzle each other with their most telling attributes – her beauty and innocence, his rock star/literati charisma – until it wears off and the people they really are emerge.

As Irina’s son, Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov, Tufts is the effective fourth member of the quartet. He’s a mama’s boy in the extreme, so the presence of Trigorin is an immediate threat. He’s also in love with Nina, so her obvious crush on the writer is in fact crushing to Konstantin, who also fancies himself a writer, but of the new-and-improved, not-stuffy-like-Trigorin variety.

Chekhov is the master of creating a seemingly normal, everyday portrait of life while filling his characters with every kind of emotional experience imaginable. In this assortment you have the ravages of old age represented by Pyotr Nikolayevich Sorin (Richard Farrell), mid-life jealousy (Brothers’ Polina), unrequited love (Sklar’s Masha), relative professional and emotional contentment (Howard Swain as Dr. Dorn) and nerdy devotion (Peter Ruocco as devoted husband and father Semyon Semoyonovich Medvedenko).

It’s a captivating collection of human misery at various levels of intensity and self-delusion. Minadakis’ production does what you want a Chekhov show to do: it envelops you in its recognizable world and makes you feel what these people are feeling, whether you want to share their little miseries and joys or not.


Marin Theatre Company’s Seagull continues through Feb. 20 at 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley. Tickets are $35-$53. Call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

Review: `Uncle Vanya’

Continues through Aug. 31 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda

Annie Purcell is Sonya and Dan Hiatt is Vanya in Cal Shakes’ beautiful, moving production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Photos by Kevin Berne


Beauty, boredom, brilliance imbue Cal Shakes’ Vanya

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Passion runs deep in Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, but until late in the game, that passion barely stirs the surface.

One of the fascinating things about Chekhov, and one of the great elements of the California Shakespeare Theater Vanya now running in Orinda, is that hardly anything or anyone can be judged in a simple way.

Vanya is essentially about two deeply lonely souls whose lives either have escaped them or are about to. Sonya is a plain young woman with a powerful mind and an even more powerful heart. She and her Uncle Vanya are stuck running a wheat farm so that they can support Sonya’s father, Alexander, an esteemed academic who’s not nearly the great man they think he is.

Seemingly resigned to their lives of toil and isolation, Sonya and Vanya harbor passions and hopes and plans of their own. For Sonya, it’s all about her love of the dashing, slightly gone-to-seed Dr. Astrov, a country doctor with forward-thinking ideas about the preservation of the earth. But the doctor’s cynicism (and alcoholism) prevent him from connecting with anyone decent. He only responds to beauty, which means he only responds to Yelena, the gorgeous young second wife of academic Alexander.

The doctor is bored and interesting. Yelena is bored and beautiful. It’s a lazy but potent combination, which is too bad for Vanya, who also pines for Yelena but for whom he’ll never be anything but a good friend.

If this sounds a little melodramatic, it isn’t, especially in Emily Mann’s crisp, clear adaptation directed by Timothy Near, the outgoing artistic director of San Jose Repertory Theatre making her Cal Shakes debut.

Mann and Near emphasize the comedy – there really are a lot of laughs, all of which come from character more than situation – only because the more we laugh, the more our hearts break, especially for Sonya, a young woman who deserves so much better than she gets.

Near adds some fussy directorial flourishes at the top of each act, but mostly she adheres to the complex simplicity of Chekhov’s characters as they coast through their days full of regret, misery, exhaustion, suffocation, idleness, old age, restlessness and failure, all the while chatting and getting on with the business of their days. There are some great musical moments – both with recorded folk music and muted trumpet in Jeff Mockus’ expert sound design and live guitar playing by Howard Swain as Waffles, a friend of the family’s.

Near’s production is filled with warmth, and the Cal Shakes stage is stunningly beautiful with Erik Flatmo’s rustic, raw wood set blends seamlessly with the golden Orinda hills behind the stage. York Kennedy’s lights make all that wood glow in rich golden tones, and Raquel Barreto’s costumes blend perfectly except for Yelena’s gowns, which are meant to stand out as sophisticated beauty amid rural earthiness.
Dan Hiatt gives Vanya some much needed levity, but when the character snaps, when he’s finally had enough, Hiatt connects with profound anger and desperation. Early on, Vanya gets a laugh with the line: “It’s a senseless, dirty business this living.” But by play’s end, nearly 2 ½ hours later, we believe him.

Vanya’s friendship with the doctor is strongly felt because Andy Murray is perfectly cast as Astrov, a man with some sexual fire still in him but who has given over to the pressures of his job and the futility of being an environmentalist in an industrial world.

Sarah Grace Wilson as Yelena has the requisite beauty, but she reveals much more under the surface and makes her character, who is stuck in a horrible marriage with an egomaniacal blowhard (James Carpenter as Alexander), one of the bright lights of the play.

But no light is brighter than Annie Purcell as Sonya. Purcell is so grounded, so real, it’s almost impossible to watch anyone else when she’s on stage. She listens with intensity, and even the most fleeting expression on her face can break your heart. And Sonya is a heartbreaking character to be sure – just watch her in the doctor’s thrall as he, oblivious to her adoration, degrades, demeans and destroys her without ever knowing it.

It’s a tribute to Chekhov first, and to everyone in this production next, that such a depressing play isn’t depressing. “It’s the world that’s insane for letting us live in it,” Vanya says. And he’s right. But like Vanya and Sonya, we go on and find a way to live in a sad, insane world, even if we never quite know why or how we do.

Cal Shakes’ Uncle Vanya continues through Aug. 31 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, off the Shakespeare Festival/Gateway exit on Highway 24, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Tickets are $32-$62. There’s a free shuttle between the theater and the Orinda BART station. Call 510-548-9666 or visit www.calshakes.org.

Dan Hiatt on Chekhov, regret and gunshots

Last summer, Dan Hiatt was in three California Shakespeare Theater shows, including The Triumph of Love (above, with Domenique Lozano). This summer he is playing the title character in Cal Shakes’ Uncle Vanya. Photo by Kevin Berne

Actors tend to love working on Chekhov plays. There aren’t many of them, but they’re juicy – rich in character, simple on the surface and utterly complex underneath.

Dan Hiatt, a familiar face to Bay Area theatergoers, has done two of Chekhov’s big three: The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull. Now he’s closing in on the third. He’s playing the title character in California Shakespeare Theater’s Uncle Vanya, which previews this week and opens on Saturday in Orinda.

Hiatt, taking a break from rehearsal in Berkeley, says he’ll always jump at the chance to do Chekhov.

“He puts human nature on the page more accurately than most other writers, it seems to me, and with such humor,” Hiatt says. “The plays are more than a century old, yet they’re still absolutely recognizable. The plays are a great kind of loving, humorous, tongue-in-cheek takes on what human nature is, what it is to live our lives. The other thing is I don’t think there’s a bad character, an unrewarding character in any of them. Even the smaller roles require so much.”

Playing Vanya, a man looking back on his life with great regret, Hiatt has been loving rehearsals, calling them a “joy…up to now.” Then he sort of hit an emotional wall and had to do some deep thinking about the character.

“It’s almost like maybe I’m even sort of looking back on the time when I was Vanya’s age – I’m maybe a few years older than he is – from the vantage point of having gone through what he’s going through,” Hiatt says. “You get through that, and you reach a place where you’re pretty comfortable and happy. I’m there, Vanya isn’t. Looking back on all this angst, it’s better to have been through it than to have to imagine it entirely. The advantage of being older is not having to go through it in life while you’re working on the role.”

Though successful and one of the most admired actors in the Bay Area, Hiatt says his phase of existential regret had to do with his life choices.

“I never married or had children,” he says. “That’s something I think helps to tether people to something. And then living a life on stage – wow, that was really insignificant. There’s nothing to show for it and I’m still struggling to make the rent. It’s the story of age. I think probably a lot of people at 3 a.m., no matter what their life situation, look back and say, `If only…'”

Some complain that nothing much happens in a Chekhov play, characters just sit around and yak, but Hiatt disagrees.

“We all sit around most of the time, yet we’re all wrestling with some life-changing thing everyday,” he says. “People are trying to work out their lives, dream about things not possible to them. That’s a tremendously active thing.”

Cal Shakes’ Vanya is directed by San Jose Repertory Theatre’s outgoing artistic director, Timothy Near, and uses an adaptation by Emily Mann that Hiatt describes as “active and muscular in language.”

“You really sense Vanya change over time in this script,” Hiatt says. “He grows much darker in the second act, so it’s maybe not as surprising when he runs off and grabs the pistol. Emily Mann has had some really great ideas here.”

To read Dan Hiatt’s thoughts on being a veteran Bay Area actor, visit my Examiner.com page.

Uncle Vanya begins previews Wednesday, Aug. 6, opens Saturday, Aug. 9 and continues through Aug. 31 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, just off the Shakespeare Festival/Gateway exit on Highway 24, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel. There’s a free shuttle that runs between the theater and the Orinda BART station. Tickets are $32-$62. Call 510-548-9666 or visit www.calshakes.org for information.

Cal Shakes’ `Ideal’ hit

Word from the California Shakespeare Theater is that artistic director Jonathan Moscone’s production of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde has become the company’s biggest box-office hit in its 35-year history.

This breaks the previous record held by Moscone’s production of Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw last summer.

Says Cal Shakes’ outgoing managing director Debbie Chin: “We are so grateful that despite challenging economic times, we are part of a community that responds to, and frankly demands, great art.”

Ideal broke the previous record for gross sales, single tickets and group sales and performed to a 93 percent capacity during its 24-performance run July 2-27 at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in Orinda.

The Cal Shakes season continues with Emily Mann’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya opening Aug. 9 and continuing through Aug. 31. The season closes with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night directed by Mark Rucker, Sept. 10-Oct. 5.

Call 510-548-9666 or visit www.calshakes.org for information.