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Theater Articles
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Theater
A Comic Gag That Hasn’t Lost Its Edge
By Nirmala Nataraj (Jun 16, 2006)
Bad manners, lowly comic gags, and jejune slapstick humor never looked as good as they do in Jeune Lune’s ribald contemporary adaptation of Molière’s "The Miser". A 1668 play about a simpering curmudgeon whose notorious love of gold keeps everyone, including his two children, at bay, "The Miser’s" economy of language is wryly complemented by its skinflint protagonist’s scrimping and churlishness. More
Theater
Blowing the Dust off the American Classic
By Nirmala Nataraj (Apr 23, 2006)
Few classic plays lend themselves well to modern interpretations, no matter how true to the iconic original, and Tennessee Williams is the American exemplar of this very basic dramaturgical principle. Williams' motley cast of vituperative viragos, silver-tongued Southern cads, and slinky but invariably histrionic temptresses has made for oodles of overacted, hair shirt renditions -- histrionic poetry screamed aloud rather than whispered without the understated moodiness and tragic-comic ambivalence that Williams might have intended. More
Theater
A Fresh Rejoinder to Experimental Drama
By Nirmala Nataraj (Apr 20, 2006)
The stage is dark and the atonal rhythms of a mildly eerie soundscape float out to the audience before a wash of light spatters, turn by turn, four performers slumped against the walls, who each utter a phrase that's either cryptic or equivocal, before the action commences. From my personal experience with theatre, this is the kind of enigmatic kickoff that could precede either a poorly rendered performance piece, or a fresh rejoinder to experimental drama. Thankfully, Campo Santo's production of Haze -- a loosely connected series of aphoristic vignettes by four contemporary authors -- went for the latter. More
Theater
The Forecast is Fun
By Nirmala Nataraj (Apr 13, 2006)
Russian clown Slava Polunin has all the requisite ingredients for theatrical magic: moon, wind, rainbow, and stars -- you can also throw in some cobwebs, mannequins, and a cavalcade of oddball clown friends for good measure. But be aware that Polunin's celebrated Slava's Snowshow is as capricious as the tricksters who have created it. In Polunin's own words, it is "a theatre of ritual magic and festive pageantry, constructed on the basis of images and movements, games and fantasies". More
Theater
A Hero for Our Troubled Times
By Nirmala Nataraj (Mar 31, 2006)
When Chicano performance trio Culture Clash were approached by Berkeley Repertory Theatre artistic director Tony Taccone to collaborate on a play that would lampoon California's original masked marauder, they were hesitant at first. Zorro, a dreamy Spanish hero conceived in 1919 by Irish-American writer Johnston McCulley, may have fought for the rights of disenfranchised Mexicans in California, but the pulpy melodrama of Douglas Fairbanks-era films is now, in retrospect, gauche and offensive. All the same, Culture Clash, who are known for their biting, irreverent humor and willingness to take contemporary issues to the hilt, couldn't refuse. More
Theater
An Extravagant Interpretation
By Nirmala Nataraj (Mar 24, 2006)
If you're familiar with the work of British choreographer Matthew Bourne, you'll know that his theatrical performances are imbued with pop culture references and lavish touches of gay camp. Bourne's done everything from sizzling reproductions of "Carmen" (as envisioned in a 1950s town teeming with sweaty car mechanics, in "The Car Man") to hokey interpretations of fusty ballets like "The Nutcracker". But there are always a few things you can count on from a Matthew Bourne show: famously over the top sets and costumes; scorching gay fantasy with touches of seedy epicureanism; and an unforgettable sense of playful debauchery. More
Theater
Love and Desire Through the Ages
By Nirmala Nataraj (Mar 10, 2006)
The Eastenders Repertory Company's sixth annual festival of short plays really isn't intended to shock, despite this year's theme: 100 Years of Sex Acts. While some of the vignettes are as titillating as you're likely to get from bare-bones theatre, the Oakland-based company is merely commencing with their festival formula: a chronological retrospective of the short play, revolving around a different theme each year.
Astute renditions of obscure literary masterpieces by the likes of Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchill, and Federico Garcia Lorca set the stage for three marvelous evenings. More
Theater
Stepping Up to the Mic
By Clifton Lemon (Mar 3, 2006)
This arch, hilarious, wacky, and poignant romp of a musical uses the setting of a small town spelling bee as a jumping off point for an extended riff on perfectionism, adolescent insecurity, rejection, parental love (or rather, lack thereof), language, winning, losing, and…well, what else is there in life? The characters, a motley crew of nerdy high school students, bring all their festering angst and internal conflict to the microphone in their heartfelt attempts to spell correctly and win approval. Then they sing and dance and spell some more. More
Theater
Standing in the Light
By Clifton Lemon (Feb 24, 2006)
This complex, mystical, and powerful work is the ninth in August Wilson's ten play cycle about the twentieth century African-American experience. Gem of the Ocean's setting, Pittsburgh in 1904, is the earliest chronologically; it introduces characters referred to in the cycle's plays set in later decades. It paints a vivid historical picture of life in the post-Emancipation North that's as full of pain, joy, humor, and resonance as it is devoid of sentimentality, sanctimoniousness, or prejudice. More
Theater
A Dangerous Game of Dress-Up at Exit Stage Left
By Nirmala Nataraj (Feb 10, 2006)
Early twentieth century playwright Jean Genet was a devilish provocateur whose works belong to the realm of high concept tragedy but encompass all the vulgar fodder of the low-brow, including tawdry tales of prostitutes, thieves, homosexuals, and other social "deviants". Genet's play The Maids is one of the playwright's most sophisticated commentaries on the otherness he was so preoccupied with portraying in his work. More
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