Tag Archives: Berkeley Rep

Hershey Felder captures Chopin at Berkeley Rep

Hershy Felder as Frederick Chopin Photo :  John Zich
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Berkeley Rep theatergoers and critics, myself included, have already sung the praises of Hershey Felder, the gifted concert pianist, composer and actor, who wrote and performed the first-rate one-man show “George Gershwin Alone” (2013), and the recent exciting “Maestro about Leonard Bernstein. He has now reappeared, barely one month later, with a similarly structured biographical and musical performance, “Monsieur Chopin,” about the creative genius, Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin. So, is this too much of a good thing? … Continue reading »

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SF Jewish Film Festival: The Berkeley highlights

The Sturgeon Queens
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The 34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the first and still the largest of its kind, returns to the Bay Area July 24-August 10 with 67 offerings from 17 countries, as well as festivities, special discussion programs and international guests in Berkeley, as well as in San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Rafael. Tickets and passes are now on sale.

Berkeley is well-represented in this year’s festival, with four films by Berkeley filmmakers and a “Berkeley Big Night” event at the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

This year, the “Berkeley Big Night” will be a screening of Julie Cohen’s The Sturgeon Queens on Sat. Aug. 2. The film follows four generations of the Jewish immigrant family that founded Russ and Daughters, a Lower East Side lox and herring emporium that survives and thrives. Produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the store, this documentary features an extensive interview with two of the original daughters, now 100 and 92 years old, and interviews with prominent enthusiasts of the store, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, Chef Mario Batali, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, and 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer. … Continue reading »

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Hershey Felder: A master entertainer’s food journeys

Master entertainer and virtuoso pianist Hershey Felder returns to Berkeley Rep with his popular and critically acclaimed one man show Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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By Aleta George

Hershey Felder’s hands are small considering what he asks of them. In his one-man show, Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, now playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, they glide across the keys of a baby grand, conduct an orchestra with grace, and accentuate Bernstein’s father’s scorn.

Felder uses his hands just as ably offstage, especially in the kitchen. He’s known for his cooking, a passion that he inherited from his mother, Eva, while growing up in Montreal.

“My mother was a foodie of sorts,” says Felder. “She loved to prepare a beautiful table and make a beautiful warm home. I was there as a kid over her shoulder and learned to have a great deal of love for food.” … Continue reading »

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Felder reaches new depths in ‘Maestro’ at the Rep

Hershey Felder in Maestro. Photo: Kevin Berne
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Even before it opened, Berkeley Rep extended the run of Hershey Felder’s brilliant new one-man show about the life of the renowned 20th century American music wunderkind, Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990).

Berkeley Rep theater-goers and critics have already sung the praises of Hershey Felder, the talented concert pianist, composer and actor, who in 2013, wrote and performed the first-rate George Gershwin Alone, as well as adapted and directed the wildly popular The Pianist of Willesden Lane.

With direction by the multi-talented Joel Zwick, in 105 uninterrupted minutes, this new show ably accomplishes the challenging task of recounting Bernstein’s career from Jewish American prodigy to internationally celebrated composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist, while delicately exploring Bernstein’s thorny private life. … Continue reading »

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Review: Kushner’s new play is vital, intense, intelligent

Emmy-nominated actor Mark Margolis (Gus) and screen and stage actress Deirdre Lovejoy (Empty) are part of the ensemble cast in The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Photo: kevinberne.com
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Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) is back in Berkeley with his vital, intense and intelligent new epic drama about the fascinating Italian American Marcantonio family and their political, social, sexual, economic and religious lives. After earlier versions of the play opened at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater in 2009 and at New York’s Public Theater in 2011, Tony Kushner is now satisfied with his re-written version for Berkeley Rep.

The family patriarch, 72-year old Gus Marcantonio (Mark Margolis), a lifetime Communist, retired dockworker and union organizer has decided to commit suicide. The reasons for his suicide wish don’t seem especially compelling, yet we learn that he made a serious suicide attempt one year prior to the action of the play.

Gus gathers his rambunctious family at their Brooklyn brownstone to tell them of his decision. Soon, we are confronted by the family’s cacophony of simultaneous, passionate voices arguing at, and to, each other, in a melée of Mamet-like exchanges. Continue reading »

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

Sharin Smelser
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A SLIVER OF LIGHT The American hikers accused of espionage and imprisoned in Iran in 2009 have spent the years since their release speaking and writing about pieces of the harrowing and eye-opening experience, and advocating for prisoners’ rights. In a new memoir, A Sliver of Light, the three hikers tell the story through their intertwining voices. On Thursday, Mar. 27 they’ll speak in Berkeley, the city of their alma mater, about life in and after captivity. Interviewing Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd is Berkeleyside’s own Frances Dinkelspiel. The event runs 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley at 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $8-$15 online or $20 at the door. … Continue reading »

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Steven Epp is back with ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’

Accidental Death of an AnarchistYale Repertory Theatre
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The 1970 absurdist farce, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, is the most internationally recognized play by the 1997 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Dario Fo (Italian, born in 1926) “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.”

Considered a classic of 20th-century theater, Accidental Death of an Anarchist has been performed in more than 40 countries, including Argentina, Chile, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, and Zimbabwe — all places in which provocative theater could be used as a revolutionary medium.

Based upon a cross between commedia dell’arte and the Marx Brothers, this production is by the creative team of comic genius Steven Epp and inventive director Christopher Bayes, who presented to Berkeley Rep the ridiculous A Doctor in Spite of Himself in 2012. … Continue reading »

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

Lawrence Hall NOVA Making Stuff
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JOAN LA BARBARA Some say Berkeley is still stuck in the ’70s. Music fans who wish that were the case should head to the L@TE event this Friday, March 14. It’s been 38 years since experimental musician Joan La Barbara performed her “Circular Song” at BAM/PFA in 1976, and she’s back for round two. The piece is a presentation of the award-winning artist’s expansive repertoire of vocal techniques, including circular singing, glottal clicks, and split-tone multiphonics. The $7 show starts at 7:30 p.m. at 2626 Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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‘The House that will not Stand:’ An exciting world première

(l to r) Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Odette) and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart (Agnès) portray sisters and award-winning actress Lizan Mitchell (Beartrice) portrays the matriarch of the Albans family in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s The House that will not Stand, a comedic drama about free women of color in 1836 New Orleans. Photo: kevinberne.com
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The world première of Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand, commissioned by Berkeley Rep, is an exciting event. Not only is Gardley a nationally known, award-winning poet/playwright who teaches theater at Brown University, but he is also an East Oakland native who attended Castlemont High School before graduating from San Francisco State University and the Yale School of Drama.

Gardley’s ambitious, engaging, witty and hectic two-act play, set in New Orleans in 1836, relates the story of Beartrice Albans (wonderfully acted by Lizan Mitchell), a free woman of color, who entered into a common-law marriage, referred to as plaçage (from the French “to place with”) with the white and wealthy Lazare (Ray Reinhardt).

In this formal arrangement, acknowledged in New Orleans while it was a French colony, a mother negotiated a contract for her daughter to live with a rich white man. At the fancy Quadroon Ball, white men mixed with young Creole women with the intent of finding a placée. … Continue reading »

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Baryshnikov is back at Berkeley Rep with ‘Man in a Case’

Tymberly Canale and Mikhail Baryshnikov perform a dramatic pas de deux depicting the unrequited love between an unmarried man and a married woman in About Love, the second piece featured in Man in a Case, at Berkeley Rep. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
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Based on two short stories by Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Baryshnikov and the Obie award winning Big Dance Theater blend dance, video, theater and music to create a dream-like exploration of love and loss in Man in a Case at the Berkeley Rep

Although seeing theater that integrates performance, spoken word and mixed media can be fascinating, the Chekhov stories might have generated more vitality and power as conventional dramas. The surveillance footage, folk dances, instructional hunting videos and interviews with the cast didn’t add to the evening; rather they provided unnecessary distractions from Chekhov’s stories.

The evening begins as two hunters tell stories during a long night. One hunter tells Byelikov’s tale, Man in a Case, as an example of people “who try to retreat into their shell like a hermit crab or a snail.” Byelikov (played by Mikhail Baryshnikov), a teacher at a provincial school, was extraordinarily orderly, both in his personal and professional lives. He was proud of his disciplined life, determined to avoid the smallest hint of impropriety. … Continue reading »

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Tristan and Yseult: Sublime tour de force at Berkeley Rep

Andrew Durand is the warrior Tristan in the West Coast premiere of Tristan & Yseult, Kneehigh’s best-loved and most critically acclaimed show.

Photo by Steve Tanner
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First-rate theater lifts our well-cushioned minds and derrières out of life’s doldrums, challenging us to contemplate the great mysteries of human existence: love, hate, honor, betrayal, death, and why zippers always get stuck when we are in a hurry. It also titillates our bawdier senses, tickles our funny bones, threatens our presumptions and steals our breath away with unexpected brilliance and beauty.

Berkeley Rep’s Tristan & Yseult, running now through Jan. 18, is first-rate theater. Spoiler alert: the show’s only downside on Dec. 8 was the cold air pouring into the lobby, as smokers slipped outside during intermission. The rest was sublime.

Directed by Emma Rice, Britain’s Kneehigh Theatre returns with the West Coast premiere of their popular show after their previous Berkeley Rep hits, The Wild Bride and Brief Encounter. There’s little point in laying out the production’s synopsis without briefly illustrating its unique evolution in the wildly exuberant hands — make that bodies and imaginations — of Kneehigh.

Rice and joint artistic director Mike Shepherd originally created the play ten years prior to its current revival. Designed to be performed outdoors in a ruined, Cornwall castle, writers Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy wrestled iambic pentameter, medieval edits and a fascination with Quentin Tarantino-style end-comes-first, fiercely noir structures into a working script. Meanwhile, Rice and the actors explored key concepts and themes of the ancient Celtic tale. … Continue reading »

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Center Street garage slated for demolition, expansion

The Center Street garage is slated for reconstruction. Image: Google Maps
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Parking in downtown Berkeley may get harder before it gets easier as a new project ramps up to demolish and rebuild the Center Street garage to add hundreds of spaces, improve seismic security and incorporate “green building” standards.

The project is expected to strain parking demand downtown, where availability is often scarce already. City staff have been working to improve the parking situation via its goBerkeley campaign, which has been underway this year. Merchants have been keeping a close eye on the Center Street project and say they hope the city will be thoughtful as it moves ahead.

The five-story Center Street parking garage — which has entrances on both Addison and Center streets — has 420 spaces, ground floor retail and was built in the 1950s, according to the staff report prepared for last week’s Berkeley City Council meeting. Tuesday night, as part of the consent calendar, the Council approved paying up to $1 million to a consultant who will plan and manage the project.  … Continue reading »

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The Pianist of Willesden Lane: Poignant, yet uplifting

In The Pianist of Willesden Lane, piano virtuoso and author Mona Golabek transforms into her mother, Lisa Jura, to recount her inspirational story against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Photo:  mellopix.com
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Noted concert pianist Mona Golabek’s enthralling one-woman play underscores the power of music and the significance of history. Based on her book (with Lee Cohen) of the same name, The Pianist of Willesden Lane reveals the experiences of Golabek’s mother, Lisa Jura, a Jewish piano virtuoso, who escaped from Nazi-controlled Vienna to London in 1938 when she was 14 years old.

Golabek recounts her own history, performs her mother’s role, and occasionally portrays others in the story. Lisa Jura’s survival story is poignant, yet uplifting. When combined with Golabek’s magnificent piano performance of beautiful music by some of the world’s best composers, including Debussy, Grieg, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Scriabin, the story takes on an intense and profound meaning. … Continue reading »

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