Tag Archives: Berkeley Rep

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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Uncharted, Berkeley’s first ideas festival is 1 week away!

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The finishing touches are being applied to the program, the speakers, all world experts in their fields, are tweeting about their imminent appearance on stage in Berkeley, and the final decisions on wine pairings, music sets and lighting for the sure-to-be celebratory party at the art museum have been made. This time next week the inaugural Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas will be in full flow.

The program is bursting with entertaining and thought-provoking conversations. Here’s just a taste:

Browse the full program here; learn more about the speakers here.
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Bites: What’s new in East Bay food, XXXIV

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ARTICHOKE BASILLE’S PIZZA New York style pizza slices are coming to Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue neighborhood with the opening — before Halloween it is hoped — of Artichoke Basille’s Pizza at 2590 Durant Avenue, on the corner of Bowditch. Jim Trevor, who is helping open the new pizzeria, says it’s the first West Coast location for the group which has several New York branches — including three in Manhattan (one of which is pictured top), one at La Guardia airport, and another within a casino in Queens. Francis Garcia and Sal Basille, pizzaiolos, cousins and best friends, opened the first Artichoke Basille’s on 14th Street in New York City in 2008. They learned their trade at the family restaurant, Basille’s, in Staten Island. Such has been the taste for their pizzas that fans, according to the company, now include Keith Richards and Momofuku’s David Chang. Why Telegraph? “Not many places in the Bay Area have foot traffic like Telegraph Avenue,” said Trevor. And he adds: “College students can eat pizza morning, noon and night!”  … Continue reading »

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‘Vanya and Sonia’: Chekhov revisited with laughter, more

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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike — a 2013 Tony award winner for Best Play making its first regional appearance at Berkeley Rep — combines merriment and literacy with a tinge of sadness. It’s a complex balance that three-time Obie Award-winning playwright, Christopher Durang, (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, The Marriage of Bette & Boo) pulls off with aplomb, as director Richard E.T. White (Berkeley Reps’ Otherwise Engaged, Dancing at Lughnasa), and a talented cast bring Durang’s witty and wise words to life.

Durang weaves theatrical themes, most notably from Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, to create this modern-day version of a dysfunctional family facing the sale of their beloved home and the evaporation of their once bright futures.

As the play begins, Vanya (well acted by Anthony Fusco) and Sonia (excellent Sharon Lockwood) are dressed in their pajamas, likely their attire for the last 15 years. The live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the large country house they have spent their entire lives. Even as adults, they remained at home and cared for their parents until they died. Vanya and Sonia wallow in their boredom, depression, and hopelessness. … Continue reading »

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Mesmerizing acting makes ‘No Man’s Land’ a triumph

Ian McKellen (l) and Patrick Stewart in No Man's Land at Berkeley Rep. Photo: Kevin Berne
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The original 1975 production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land starred John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in the two central roles. That sets a pretty high bar for revivals. But it’s hard to believe those two greats would surpass Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Sean Mathias’ production that opened at Berkeley Rep on Sunday night and runs until the end of the month.

If you want to see acting at its very peak, do whatever you need to do to get tickets. McKellen, in particular, as the down-at-heel, shambolic Spooner, is mesmerizing. He’s a master of the classic Pinter dialogue, with its pauses, hesitations, misdirections and misunderstandings. But it’s McKellen’s physical presence that is most memorable: just watch him walk across the stage, somehow simultaneously lithe, drunk and worn out. Stewart, in the less showy role of literary grandee Hirst, is also strong, although the role is more a foil to Spooner.  … Continue reading »

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