Tag Archives: Aurora Theatre Company
Our Practical Heaven is a personality study about three generations of women who gather over several holiday seasons.
They meet at the beach house owned by widowed grandmother Vera (wonderfully acted by Joy Carlin). Vera’s daughter, the insecure and fragile Sasha (top performance by Anne Darragh), and Sasha’s two teenage daughters, Leez and Suze (Adrienne Walters and Blythe Foster, both skilled at their roles). Vera’s “honorary daughter,” the loving yet ambitious Willa (excellent Julia Brothers) and her mysteriously ill daughter, Magz (Lauren Spencer captures a difficult role), are an integral element in the familial group.
Our Practical Heaven explores the ever-shifting connections and bonds among the women. While they swim in the pond, bird watch and clean the house, we observe the changing undercurrents of family allegiance, loyalty, and jealousy. … Continue reading »
One of the pleasures of old-time music is that it acts as a force-field repelling shallow notions of hipness and callow ironic stances. In the hands of a generous artist like Nell Robinson, the specter of kitsch is banished by an abundance of soul.
Next week Robinson, a tremendously gifted singer in the throes of a late-blooming career, joins with her musical partner, guitarist Jim Nunally, to inaugurate Aurora Theatre’s new cabaret space, Harry’s UpStage, with “A Down Home Christmas with Nell and Jim,” which runs Dec. 13-21. Featuring original material, seasonal standards, and sundry songs that seem appropriate, the show is new, but the concept is old indeed.
“We’ve done a lot of singing at the holidays with family and friends,” says Robinson, aka long-time Berkeley resident Hilary Perkins. “We’re taking the music that we love to sing in our living rooms and bringing it into the new Aurora performance space, hoping to make it feel like a living room, singing music people will know, and some new stuff we’ve written.” … Continue reading »
Four engaging one-act plays by Thornton Wilder, the three-time Pulitzer prize-winning author, give us insight into Wilder’s view of the ways in which American families live and struggle — for better or for worse. Add a terrific cast and wonderful direction by Barbara Oliver, and these plays come alive. Whether written in the 1930s or the 1960s, the Wilder Times one-act plays remain creative and fresh.
The first two plays, both written in 1962, Infancy and Childhood, show us what deficient parents we’ve had and what flawed parents we are to our children. Infancy and Childhood were written for Wilder’s Plays for Bleecker Street at the Circle in the Square Theater in Greenwich Village, where they were directed by the great José Quintero. Then and now, Wilder’s plays experiment with the private thoughts of his characters. … Continue reading »
Aurora theatergoers will have ringside seats to see the Bay Area premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s vibrant and dynamic 2010 play, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, titularly about wrestling, but actually a comic drama examining racial politics in the U.S. and larger questions of good and evil. Don’t be turned off to this production if you’re not a fan of wrestling.
The play centers on a fictional professional wrestling monopoly, THE Wrestling, in which the owner, “EKO” (well played by Rod Gnapp) manipulates his wrestlers, choosing the all-American types, such as the swaggering African-American champion, Chad Deity (the handsome Beethovan Oden) to be the winners and the ethnic minorities, such as the Puerto Rican “Mace” to be the losers.
Wrestling fans love the overblown capitalist Chad Deity. He’s an American. He throws money at his audience. Although he can hardly wrestle, competitors such as Mace do all the heavy lifting (pun intentional) in order to make Deity look good in the ring. … Continue reading »
Time stands still — or at least repeats itself in striking fashion — in Anatol, the Aurora Theatre Company’s current production of Austrian dramatist Arthur Schnitzler’s 1893 play.
In a series of six episodes, connected with threadlike chronology by central characters and themes forged in steel, the play unveils the wit, whimsy and withering self-preoccupation of an affluent “cad about town” and his obsession with sexually emancipated women.
Aurora Artistic Director Tom Ross became convinced of Schnitzler’s importance as a playwright after a meeting with translator Margret Schaefer, a Berkeley resident, and soon they were jointed by Barbara Oliver, a founding director at the Aurora, to bring the project to fruition.
The result, in tailored performances designed to be enjoyed in the moment, then savored in reflection, is near perfect. If the play’s central theme and fascination is with faithfulness over a lifetime, Shaefer’s selective ear, Oliver’s brilliant economy of staging, and the quality of the cast captures the audiences’ well-placed trust in mere minutes. … Continue reading »
Annie Baker tackles heavyweight and potentially sensitive subjects in “Body Awareness”, which premiered at the Aurora Theatre last Friday. The sharply written, tightly wound play manages to be at once entertaining, funny and thought-provoking, which is testament to the skills of the 28-year-old playwright.
We open with feminist professor Phyllis (Amy Resnick) on the podium addressing an imaginary, as well as the real, audience. The academic is orchestrating “Body Awareness Week” on a small Vermont college campus. She and her partner Joyce (Jeri Lynn Cohen) are hosting Frank, a guest artist (Howard Swain) who specializes in taking nude photographs of women. Also in the household is Joyce’s 21-year-old son Jared (Patrick Russell), who, the couple believe, has Asperger’s Syndrome.
The family dynamic, already troubled, reaches breaking point after the arrival of Frank who swaggers through every scene sporting a permanent Cheshire cat grin, managing to be likable and vaguely creepy at the same time. … Continue reading »
By Lou Fancher
The Aurora Theatre Company is leaping beyond tradition with a kinetic classic, Igor Stravinsky’s ”The Soldier’s Tale”, created in 1918, and brought to new life through the imaginings of co-directors Muriel Maffre and Tom Ross.
The libretto for “A Soldier’s Tale” was written by the French-speaking Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, and when Maffre, a former San Francisco Ballet prima ballerina, first encountered the story she was seduced by its colorful, humorous language. “We chose a translation that kept the same flavor,” she said, about the English adaptation penned by Donald Pippin, Artistic Director and founder of San Francisco’s Pocket Opera.
“It’s in rhyme, so that gives it a particular propulsion,” Ross, the Aurora’s Artistic Director, noted. … Continue reading »
Edward Albee was in the audience for the opening night of “A Delicate Balance” at the Aurora Theatre earlier this month. He stood up at the play’s end, joining many others to give the actors a standing ovation. Tom Ross, who directed the play, had not told his cast that the renowned author of the play they were performing would be present on their first night. It would have given them the jitters, he said — even more than … Continue reading »
The 1950s may be known as ‘The Golden Age of Television’, but my personal golden age of boob tubery came a little bit later. At the age of eight I was transported from a country with three television channels (all of which seemed to spend as much time broadcasting the test card as anything else) to the outskirts of a major American metropolis blessed with more than twenty stations.
In this land of milk and honey the phrase ‘Movies Till … Continue reading »
Tennessee Williams is best known for his plays A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but it was a character in another, less well-known play, that haunted him for decades.
Williams was obsessed with the story of Alma, a spinsterish vocal teacher in a southern town who struggles against conformity, small mindedness, and her own sexual urges.
Williams first wrote about Alma in 1947 in the short story, The Yellow Bird, which he adapted into Summer and Smoke. It had a brief, unsuccessful, run on Broadway in 1948. Williams then wrote and rewrote Alma’s story over a 25-year period, turning it into an all-together different play, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, first performed on Broadway in 1976.
“Look, I’m Alma,” Williams told the cast, according to Donald Spoto’s biography of the playwright.
On the 100th anniversary of Williams’ birth, the Aurora Theatre Company has brought the little-performed Eccentricities on a Nightingale to the stage. While the moral and sexual struggles at the center of this appealing production feel a bit dated, Alma’s quest to define herself on her own terms remains as relevant today as it did during Williams’ life. … Continue reading »
“Fat Pig”, Neil LaBute’s play which has just opened at the Aurora in Berkeley, will undoubtedly have you laughing and squirming with discomfort in equal measure.
At issue is society’s attitude to plus-size women and LaBute, predictably, pulls no punches in the script which has a young man struggling to handle his own feelings and those of his office co-workers once they discover he is dating a larger woman.
The acting from the young cast is uniformly superb and … Continue reading »