Arts & Events

Holiday Shows Abound in Bay Area

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday December 04, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

‘Tis the Season ... with an abundance of shows to keep you jolly, both traditional—Christmas Carols, Nutcrackers—and what might be called antidotes to too much cheer, or when the cheer gets cloying, and something quieter (or, on the other hand, more caustic) is called for as a restorative. 

On the trad side, Woman’s Will, the all-female Shakespeare company, has combined excerpts from a few of the most cherished holiday pastimes, by the likes of Dylan Thomas and Truman Capote, with songs and refreshments in “Christmas Memories,” a very family-friendly event, this weekend at Falkirk in San Rafael and next at Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes. 

Musical events of all sorts abound, with the Philharmonia Baroque here Sat-Sun at the First Congregational Church with “Natale Barocco;” the Contra Costa Chorale and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra bringing “Tidings of Joy” at the Unitarian Church of Berkeley (in Kensington) 7:30 p.m. Saturday, free; and holiday chorales by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at the Paramount and the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus with ‘Oh What Fun!’ at the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church this weekend, while the Oakland Civic Orchestra brings their holiday concert to St. Paul’s Episcopal. 

“Three Decembers,” Jake Heggie’s opera with Frederika von Stade, will be at Zellerbach Dec. 11, 12 and 14; soulmeister Nicholas Bearde’s Holiday Jazz & Blues show is at Anna’s Jazz Island this Sunday at 8 p.m. 

Two theater companys have opted for female vocalist nostalgia this year: Aurora in Berkeley salutes the ’60s Girl Groups with ‘The Coverlettes Cover Christmas’ through Dec. 23, while Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse goes to the ‘50s sound of the Sisters McGuire and Fontaine plus the Chordettes for ‘A Taffetas Christmas’ through Dec. 21. 

A newer, cleverly holiday-themed play, which gives a covert whiff of humanistic uplift amid the dregs of Gaelic debauchery, The Seafarer is Conor McPherson’s convocation of a few mad wassailers just north of Dublin proper for a friendly game of cards with an old gentleman who seems to take a diabolical interest in what the stakes are, and the outcome. 

Playing through Dec. 14 at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, the brilliant cast (directed by MTC artistic director Jasson Minadakis) should be particularly familiar to Berkeley theatergoers: Robert Sicular as the too-polite, beetle-browed devilish stranger, Mr. Lockhart, and Julian Lopez-Morillas as a blind wastrel of an older brother from a more parochial hell, both icons of local theater, seem to vie for the weary soul of deadpan Sharkey, a finely, sympathetically restrained Andy Murray, supported in the dire comic yuletide doings by Andrew Hurteau and an awfully leprechaunish John Flannagan, all familiar faces on East Bay stages. 

Also in Marin, an unusual one-man Christmas Carol that Julian Lopez-Morillas directed, with sprightly Ron Severdia handling all the ghosts and Crachits, Tiny Tim and Scrooge as well, at The Barn in the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross. 

An entry in the antidotal tally, a veritable homeopathic remedy for the monstrous glitz and overly-assured hypocrisy which sometimes seems to overwhelm The Season, Oz’s upright Dame Edna Everidge, perennially draped like a lurid Xmas tree, has pulled into Union Square with Dame Edna: Her First Last Tour, to vie with the brassiest ornaments of holiday commerce at the Post Street Theatre till Jan. 4, gathering her possums about her as she roars down the chimney, a malign Santa in drag. Barry Humphries, the Dame’s progenitor, hinted he’d introduce further characters, like Sir Les Patterson, foul-mouthed Aussie diplomat, drink in hand. But it’s the unmelancholy Dame who commands the stage, a theatrical wonder, an Anglo-Saxon Ma & Pa Ubu rolled up in one (and no wonder, as Humphries began his performing career as a neo-Dada trickster).