Arts Listings

The New Year of East Bay Theater

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday January 15, 2008

Theater’s just starting up after a hiatus that featured mainly holiday shows in December. After increasingly vigorous seasons over the past two years, it will be intriguing to see what Berkeley area stage companies have come up with to follow the wealth of productions in the immediate past.  

The resident companies are gearing up with shows to be launched in the coming week or two—and further work that will go up by spring. Berkeley Rep is hosting hip-hopper solo artist Danny Hoch in Taking Over, directed by the Rep’s Tony Taccone. In February, author-actress-Hollywood to-the-manor-born Carrie Fisher, also directed by Taccone, appears in her own solo piece, “a sobering look at her Hollywood hangover,” Wishful Drinking. 

Next door on Addison, the Aurora opens Diana Sen’s Satellites, in a West Coast premiere, as a Korean-American architect and her African-American husband move into a new neighborhood and find a brick thrown through their window. Directed by Kent Nicholson.  

In April, Aurora founder Barbara Oliver directs Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptaion of Euripides’ tragedy The Trojan Women. Oliver helmed Aurora’s production of McLaughlin’s version of Aeschylus’ The Persians a couple of years ago; this is—quite literally—another classic about the effects of a foreign war ... in this case, the misery of the conquered. 

More than a month before The Trojan Women opening in April, Oliver will direct Euripides’ seminal—and still hair-raising—late tragedy, performed in Athens only after the tragedian’s death in exile, The Bacchae, for the UC Berkeley Department of Theater and Dance at the excellent Zellerbach Playhouse, from Feb. 29 to March 9. Euripides pits the self-proclaimed forces of reason and order against ecstatic religiosity and sexuality. This was the favorite play of theatrical visionary and poet Antonin Artaud. 

At Shotgun, where Adam Bock’s acclaimed The Shaker Chair is on through Jan. 29, innovative Banana Bag & Bodice will put on their performance extravaganza of Beowulf (A Thousand Years of Baggage, directed by Ron Hipskind. Coming this summer is Ubu for President, Josh Costello’s adaptation of the original scandal of the Paris avant-garde, directed by artistic director Patrick Dooley. 

The community theaters are also opening with their newest shows. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley goes up this weekend at Live Oak Theatre with Neil Simon’s original ’60s hit, Barefoot in the Park.  

On Jan. 25, Contra Costa Civic Theatre (whose founder, Louis Flynn just died after a long career, appearing onstage in Meet Me in St. Louis last summer as a trolley driver) will open yet another Marx Bros. musical—The Coconuts (music by Irving Berlin, book by Kaufman and Ryskind) at their theater in El Cerrito.  

And in Pt. Richmond, the Masquers will make audiences quake with Frederick Knott’s thriller chestnut, Wait Until Dark, opening this weekend.