Arts Listings

Arts: Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Makes His Broadway Debut By KEN BULLOCKSpecial to the Planet

Tuesday January 31, 2006

Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone just presided over his Broadway debut with one show he directed at The Rep—Sarah Jones’ solo act Bridge & Tunnel—only to move on to prepare for the New Haven opening of another, the Maurice Sendak-Tony Kushner a daptations of Brundibar and Comedy on the Bridge. The double bill, which played Berkeley during the holidays, also opens uptown in New York this spring. 

Bridge & Tunnel had a seven-month sold out run in 2004, co-produced by Meryl Streep at New York’s C ulture Project, garnering an Obie for Jones and an Off-Broadway record for single-day ticket sales. It was workshopped further in performances last year at The Rep, including new music for the show by Taccone’s son, Asa, and opened Jan. 26 for a two-month run at the 590-seat Helen Hayes Theatre on Times Square, a space Taccone called “ideal” for Jones’ intimate show. 

Called “a generous, funny valentine to the kaleidoscopic, cacophonous melting pot of New York” by New York Variety and “the best new play on Broadway” by the New York Sun, Bridge & Tunnel features Jones playing different, ethnically diverse characters reading their poetry at an open-mic night in a New York nightspot. The New York Times commented that the play was “focussing on the immigrant experience ... embodying in theatrical form the durable dream that keeps drawing immigrants to America.” 

“I first discovered Sarah Jones in a tiny theater in New York’s East Village, performing for a rapturous crowd of young people,” commented Taccone ab out Jones’ 1998 performances of Surface Transit, which he brought to The Rep in Spring, 2003. “Identified by the media as a member of the ‘hip-hop generation,’ Ms. Jones reaches out to every age, every race, every class of person willing to take a journey with her through the prism of her polyrhythmic world.” 

Brundibar, which will open Feb. 10 for a month at the Yale Repertory Theatre (which co-produced with Berkeley Rep) before its New York opening at the New Victory Theater April 26, represents the fru its of a much older collaborative relationship, which dates back almost a quarter century to Taccone’s stint as artistic director at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre, where he helped develop Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, later commissioning and co-direc ting it for Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum. 

“Brundibar is my sixth time collaboration with Tony Taccone,” said Kushner. “It’s my fourth show at Berkeley Rep.” Speaking for himself and Maurice Sendak, the popular creator of children’s books who designed th e production, Kushner said, “We’re immensely proud of the results, which Berkeley saw first, and which will travel around the country.” 

Taccone has said of the two one-act “children’s operas” from midcentury Central Europe that “through these fairy tales, we can explore the reality of wartime for children in modern culture and the desire to sustain a community under the most trying of circumstances.” In a story in Variety, Kushner said he hoped the run at Yale would make the one-acts even more “Sendakian,” imbuing them with a surrealistic quality for their New York debut. 

Himself a native of New York, Kushner told Variety, “Call it the marquee, call it the amount of people in Times Square, call it the legacy of Broadway—there’s a sense of history here, and I’m honored to be part of that.”