Bay Area’s best theater bets

The summer season is starting to, pardon the expression, heat up, though anyone who has been through a Bay Area summer knows that summer does not necessarily mean heat around here.

– Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my! The first outdoor show of the year opened last week on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin: The Mountain Play’s The Wizard of Oz runs weekends through June 15. All shows are at 1 p.m. The views are spectacular, and the show’s probably pretty good, too. Tickets are $25-$39. Call 415-383-1100 or visit for information.

Franz Kafka’s Love Life, Letters and Hallucinations in Short Scenes with Live Actors at the Berkeley City Club. Photo by Marty Sohl

Brookside Repertory Theatre in Berkeley presents Franz Kafka’s Love Life, Letters and Hallucinations in Short Scenes with Live Actors (whew!) by Mae Ziglin Meidav. Written by Brookside’s artistic director, this comic biography delves into the hallucinations that fed Kafka’s creativity. The show continues through June 29 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $16-$34. Call 800-838-3006 or visit for information.

– Check out Marga Gomez’s work-in-progress Long Island Iced Latina at The Marsh, which will have its premiere at the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub in New York. Another in her series of comedic memoirs, the new show is about Gomez’s awkward adolescence (is there any other kind?) in Massapequa, Long Island, where life was equal parts cultural confusion, chronic virginity, mother-daughter instability and polyester fashion.
The show opens today (May 28) and continues through May 31 at The Marsh Studio Theater, 1074 Valencia St., San Francisco. The bill also includes an excerpt from Samantha Chase’s Lydia’s Funeral Video.
Tickets are $15-$35 on a sliding scale. Call 800-838-3006 or visit for information.

California Shakespeare Theater opens its 2008 season with Pericles, a wacky Shakespeare play involving incest, shipwrecks, tournaments, magicians bringing the dead back to life and, of course, pirates! Minneapolis-based director Joel Sass makes his West Coast directing debut with a highly theatrical re-telling of this odd tale with eight actors playing 50 roles. Previews begin tonight (May 28) and opening is Saturday, May 30. The show continues through June 22 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda (good news for your gas tank: there’s a free shuttle between Orinda BART and the theater). Tickets are $40-$62. Call 510-548-9666 or visit for information.
You might also want to check out Cal Shakes’ blogs here.

Let the sun shine

With all this talk about the Summer of Love – it was 40 years ago, in case you hadn’t noticed – I’ve been thinking about the musical Hair, which, not so coincidentally, is also celebrating its 40th birthday this year (as am I, but why dwell on such a depressing statistic).

“The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” as it was known, is a distinct product of its time. The score by James Rado (book/lyrics), Gerome Ragni (book/lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music) feels more authentically show tune than it does rock, which is probably why I enjoy it so much, but it sure doesn’t sound like other shows of its era: Kander and Ebb’s The Happy Time, Bacharach and David’s Promises, Promises (which includes my favorite overture of all time) and Sherman Edwards’ 1776.

There’s something a little quaint about Hair now, especially its Act 1 finale, which takes place in dim light as most of the cast disrobes. Naked hippies, it turns out, are cute. Not rebellious, not edgy, not counter-culture. Cute.

Bay Area audiences can see a cleaned-up, no-nudity Hair (pictured below) on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County as the Mountain Play, the official harbinger of the summer theater season in these parts, “mounts” the musical. For information, visit

If you’re in New York in late summer, the Public Theater, the original producer of the musical in its 1967 off-Broadway run, is putting on a concert version in Central Park in mid- to late September. Visit for information.

And if you want to reacquaint yourself with the score, I highly recommend the Actors Fund of America benefit recording featuring an all-star cast including Charles Busch, Raul Esparza, Lea DeLaria, Harvey Fierstein, Lillias White, Billy Porter, Sheri Rene Scott, Adam Pascal, Ledisi, Ana Gasteyer and Jennifer Hudson. The album is available on iTunes or at Sh-k-Boom Records.

So why no 40th anniversary Broadway production? There have been attempts in recent years to revive Hair on Broadway, but the surviving creators (Ragni died in 1991) can’t seem to agree on what the production should be — what, if any, of the seemingly constant revisions over the years should be incorporated, etc. It seems if there ever were a time for a Hair revival, what with the 40th anniversary of the musical and the Summer of Love and the fact that we’re a country at war, this would be it. Missed opportunity.