Tag Archives: Berkeley Rep

‘Treasure Island’ at Berkeley Rep is solid entertainment

(l to r) Demetrios Troy (Israel Hands) and John Babbo (Jim Hawkins) in Mary Zimmerman’s Treasure Island at Berkeley Rep.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
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A new play by MacArthur Fellow and Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman is always a reason to celebrate. Her Metamorphosis, Arabian Nights and White Snake have thrilled Berkeley audiences, myself included. These plays represent her sublime ability to take timeless, legendary tales and imbue them with stage magic and emotional resonance. Yet her adaption and direction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a co-production of Berkeley Rep and Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, for all of its achievements, never reaches the heights of her most brilliant productions.

Treasure Island (1881-1882) was one of the first adventure stories written for boys, and it’s still a terrific yarn. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the mid-1700s in which young Jim Hawkins, who is also the narrator, (excellent John Babbo) sails on the schooner Hispaniola seeking pirate treasure (X marks the spot). Jim ultimately uses his courage and wits to challenge that most infamous brigand, the amoral yet amiable peg-legged, crutch-toting, parrot-shouldering Long John Silver (great Stephen Epps, Tartuffe, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Miser). … Continue reading »

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Glittering stars in ‘Macbeth’ at Berkeley Rep

Conleth Hill (Macbeth) and Frances McDormand (Lady Macbeth) at Berkeley Rep.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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The Broadway stars were shining on Berkeley for the opening of Macbeth at Berkeley Rep.

Conleth Hill, an Olivier and Tony award-winning stage actor, with distinguished screen and television credits, (Lord Varys in HBO’s Game of Thrones) stars as Macbeth, the once brave warrior destroyed by ambition, guilt and self-doubt. Frances McDormand, the celebrated Tony, Emmy and Academy award-winning actor, plays the forceful and fearsome Lady Macbeth, as well as one of the witches. Added to the star-studded duo is the talented, Tony award-winning director, Daniel Sullivan, who has previously directed Hill and McDormand in other New York Shakespeare productions.

With this glittering group, and with Macbeth being one of my favorite Shakespearean tragedies, my expectations may have been impossibly high, but in any event, they weren’t fully met. Don’t get me wrong — I liked the performance overall. It may come down to a question of style. I studied the poetry and oratory of Shakespeare, and so I enjoy a bit of the ham in Shakespearean actors. This production focused more on moving the plot along than on the emotion of the main characters and the affecting recitation of the soliloquies. In some scenes, the actors did capture the emotion and the eloquence of the language. Yet in many other instances, that passion was missing. At times it was difficult to hear the actors and understand the words they spoke, as lines seemed rushed and poorly articulated. … Continue reading »

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Bites: La PanotiQ, McDonald’s, Genova Deli, more

Croissants from La PanotiQ. Photo: La PanotiQ/Facebook
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Openings, closings..

LA PANOTIQ GETTING CLOSE We brought you news of a new location of La PanotiQ Bakery Café headed to Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood last June. According to the bakery’s Facebook page, La PanotiQ is “inching closer” to its soft and grand openings. Photos posted by the bakery this week show lots of construction, but nothing yet looks complete. It will be opening in the space formerly occupied by Padi Restaurant, and before that — for many years — Holy Land. La PanotiQ is a family-owned bakery and café chain with several locations around the Bay Area: in Mountain View, Campbell, Livermore and two in San Francisco (Noe Valley and Chestnut Street). Expect French-style pastries like traditional croissants “made with pure AOC butter,” and tartes tatins. If the Berkeley bakery follows the style of its other cafés, the menu may also include breads, sandwiches, salads and coffee. La PanotiQ Bakery Café will be at 2965 College Ave. (at Ashby Avenue), Berkeley 94705. Connect with the bakery on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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‘Aubergine’ at Berkeley Rep tears at the heartstrings

(l to r) Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Lucien) and Tim Kang (Ray) in Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Berkeley Rep. Photo: kevinberne.com
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Although intellectually we understand that we will die, most of us try to avoid contemplating death — either our own or of those we love. Julia Cho’s poetic new drama, Aubergine, makes us confront the heartrending loss of a parent and the painful grieving process that follows. Interlaced with the theme of loss is food — and its invocation of childhood, memory and love.

An affecting emotional, but fragmented drama, Aubergine begins with a moving monologue by Diane (marvelous Safiya Fredericks) about her deceased father’s favorite food. I was teary within the first minutes.

The scene then shifts to the main story about the death of a stern, elderly South Korean immigrant (Sab Shimono), who struggled to make a life for himself and his son, Ray, after the premature death of his wife. As an adult, Ray (fine acting by Tim Kang, TV’s The Mentalist) and his father had little in common. Ray is a dedicated chef, whereas his father, who seemed to take no enjoyment from food, believed that cooking is a woman’s job. When Ray’s father is released from the hospital to die at home, Ray becomes his reluctant caregiver, guided by a kind and wise hospice nurse, Lucien (first-rate Tyrone Mitchell Henderson). … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 01.19.16

Swing by Pete Rosos. Photo taken Jan. 17, 2016

Swing by Pete Rosos. Photo taken Jan. 17, 2016

Berkeley Rep becomes first dramatic theater to install Meyer Sound Constellation (Stage Directions)
Berkeley Playhouse presents world musical premiere of Bridges (Broadway World)
FBI now accepting complaints about Premier Cru (Mercury News)
Michael Lewis: The scourge of Wall Street (The Guardian)
Women authors seek to inspire at annual festival (IBA)
Monterey Jazz Fest band heads to Berkeley (Mercury News)
Legal tech startup Everlaw raises $8.1M (Venture Beat)
Get ready for BAMPFA (Daily Planet)
Tall order for Berkeley (Manteca Bulletin)
Haste Street building catches fire (Daily Cal)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

BBCO. Photo: Bill Hocker
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BCCO 50TH The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra celebrates its golden anniversary this weekend with three concerts at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. The program from the non-auditioned community chorus includes the first performances of “I Think I Shall Praise It,” composed by Napa-based Kurt Erickson for the BCCO 50th celebration, two movements from Brahms’ German Requiem, selections from Handel’s Messiah, Sibelius’ Finlandia and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. In addition to the concerts, the BCCO has built a special website for the 50th birthday, filled with stories about the group’s first half century. Performances are free, but donations are welcome. Friday, Jan. 8, 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9 and Sunday, Jan. 10, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Rep to unveil Peet’s Theatre to public Saturday

Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
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Thirty-six years after Berkeley Rep opened its first permanent home on Addison Street in downtown, the theater company will, on Saturday, unveil a comprehensive overhaul of its original stage. (See below for details of the Grand Opening event for the public.)

Those who show up to see the renamed Peet’s Theatre will not necessarily notice any major differences to what used to be known as the Thrust Stage, however. As Artistic Director Tony Taccone put it at a media and donors’ launch event Thursday: “It’s a bit like inviting people over to your home when you’ve put in a new foundation.” Much of the $7.5 million renovation work is invisible.

Arguably the most impressive new feature at the theatre will be heard rather than seen. A state-of-the-art “constellation acoustic system,” installed by Berkeley’s Meyer Sound, provides a much improved sonic environment for the audience, as well as better clarity for actors and more tools for sound designers to play with, according to the Rep’s Managing Director, Susie Medak. … Continue reading »

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Downtown Berkeley launches new marketing campaign

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Downtown Berkeley Association is hanging 85 colorful double banners from downtown Berkeley’s lampposts to launch a new branding campaign, “Meet Me Downtown.” The campaign is being led by the DBA with five partners, the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the new UC Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Freight & Salvage and Visit Berkeley.

“This marks the beginning of the revitalization of the downtown that we’ve been building towards over the last few years,” said John Caner, CEO of the DBA. “The museum is the biggest thing that has happened downtown since the opening of BART, and the UC Theatre is a major venue. It’s the beginning of a fundamental shift.”  … Continue reading »

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Unflinching and timely: ‘Disgraced’ at Berkeley Rep

Bernard White (Amir) and Nisi Sturgis (Emily) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced at Berkeley Rep.

Photo by Liz Lauren
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The exceptional and intense Pulitzer prize-winning drama, Disgraced, is a timely and unflinching exposition into the power and perils of race and ethnicity in America. Talented novelist (American Dervish) and playwright Ayad Akhtar elegantly communicates these multifaceted concepts using only four main characters, whose lives change over the course of a social dinner.

Amir Kapoor (Bernard White), a Pakistani American corporate lawyer, is hoping to make partner at his predominantly Jewish New York law firm. He claims to be Indian (and therefore Hindu), hoping to hide his less acceptable Muslim background. After all, he has rejected his religion, calling the Koran, “one very long hate mail letter to humanity.”

Living a sophisticated American life is far more significant to Amir than looking backwards at his religion and race. But, as much as he wants to escape his heritage, like a dark enveloping shadow, it hauntingly reappears. As my mother was fond of saying, “If you try to escape your background, people will be glad to remind you of it.” … Continue reading »

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Exuberant send-up of ‘Pirates of Penzance’ at the Rep

Matt Kahler as the Major-General and the cast of The Hypocrites’ Pirates of Penzance entertain the crowd at Berkeley Rep with their immersive rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s topsy-turvy world.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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The Hypocrites, an ebullient, talented young musical troupe from Chicago is storming the beaches of Berkeley Rep (and Penzance) in their loving send-up of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. These performers are so gifted in both voice and acting that they could probably perform the operetta Pirates of Penzance as written by Gilbert and Sullivan in 1879. Instead, director and adapter Sean Graney with co-adapter Kevin O’Donnell have spoofed, shortened (to 80 minutes) and transformed it into a modern musical version, using many of the melodies and lyrics of the original songs.

Upon entering the Rep’s new Osher Studio on Center Street, one is immersed in the joyous, colorful, tuneful, noisy world of the Hypocrites. Each member of the cast wears a silly costume, and sings, jumps, grins, claps, throws beach balls, engages the audience and plays an instrument (including banjos, guitars, clarinet and a saw). If you have booked “promenade seating,” you may be sitting on a bench or in the kiddie pools with the yellow rubber duckies. And be alert, you may be asked to move out of the way when the players need your seat during the performance. All part of the fun. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Salsa dancing at Eats, Beats & Brews in 2014. It's back on Sunday Sept. 20 in downtown Berkeley. Photo: EB&B
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EATS BEATS & BREWS The Eats Beats & Brews salsa party returns to downtown Berkeley on Sunday, Sept. 20, noon to 6 p.m., with a packed program of fun events for all ages. Rumbaché will shake up the warm afternoon with live music and dancing, there’s an outdoor beer garden from Drakes Brewing, food from local restaurants, and fun games for all ages. Center Street’s Restaurant Row will showcase over 15 different international cuisines with special deals just for the event and combos perfect for al fresco eating. Games of Berkeley will be taking over part of the street for a Locally Grown Games Day where everyone can come meet game developers, try out new games and celebrate modern gaming.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Rep’s new musical ‘Amélie’ is entrancing

At Berkeley Rep, award-winning actress Samantha Barks as Amélie with the cast of Amélie, A New Musical, a world premiere based on the Academy Award-nominated film.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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The new musical Amélie is an absolutely charming musical achievement, with an outstanding cast, an inventive story, melodic tunes, a great band, complex stage craft, and a happy ending. Please keep this sentence in mind, when I write that Amélie may still be in its ingénue phase and could benefit from a bit of tightening here and there before it’s absolutely ready for New York, where it is likely heading.

The story, based on the 2001 critical and audience French film favorite, Amélie, is about a shy young waitress at a tiny Montmartre café who secretly devotes herself to helping others find happiness, and perhaps herself as well. Directed and co-written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and starring the gamine Audrey Tautou, the film was filled with close-ups of the adorable Tautou, and long-shots of romantic Paris. But no one sang. Although, after seeing the Berkeley Rep version, it seems obvious that music is a natural accompaniment to the whimsical plot and magical mood of the film. … Continue reading »

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Ambitious and dramatic: ‘Head of Passes’ at Berkeley Rep

l to r) Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Shelah) and Michael A. Shepperd (Creaker) perform in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes, a poignant and poetic new play about the journey of family and faith, trial and tribulation at Berkeley Rep.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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We often wonder why tragedies occur, particularly when they affect good people. It’s a question as old as the story of Job or Jesus’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In Head of Passes, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, a 2013 MacArthur “genius” grantee, presents us with the deeply religious widow Shelah, who, when faced with personal tragedy, prays, pleads, and confronts her God with a biblical fervor worthy of Job.

Shelah (great performance by Cheryl Lynn Bruce) lives in a remote marshy area of Louisiana where the Mississippi River divides and meets the Gulf of Mexico, known as the Head of Passes. Before the play begins, we see a man (Sullivan Jones) in a tuxedo sitting on the stage. From the cast list, we glean that he may be the Angel. He didn’t add much to the drama, except perhaps a misplaced sense of the supernatural. … Continue reading »

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