Berkeley on fire!” read a recent New York Times article. It was about Tiny Kushner, five one-act plays by Tony Kushner, directed by Tony Taccone, at Berkeley Rep.
Hard to imagine what ignited that sentiment. The production, featuring four journeyman actors—J. C. Cutler, Valeri Mudek, Jim Lichtscheidl and the excellent Kate Eidig—resemble Saturday Night Live routines.
Humorist Mort Sahl’s remark comes to mind: Asked what the difference was between his comedy and that of younger contemporaries, like SNL, Sahl replied, “They do parody, mine is satire.”
Kushner’s dramatic technique in these pieces is mostly cut-and-paste:
In Flip Flop Fly! two very different women, Queen Geraldine of Albania (Eidig) and eccentric entertainer Lucia Pamela (Mudek), born in the same year and now dead, meet and misunderstand each other in a conversation on the moon (which Pamela claimed to have visited).
In Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker in Paradise, Nixon’s former therapist (Cutler) waxes prosaic on his late subject.
In Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy, Laura Bush comes to read fiction to dead Iraqi children, watched over by an angel (Eidig and Mudek again).
Even the set reflects this kind of remedial arithmetic: big blowups of an IRS form and other pertinent ephemera, a workshop collage.
But it’s not a lily that The Rep is gold-plating, just curtain-raisers that could conceivably electrify the proceedings at a corporate gala, or under the redwoods at Bohemian Grove.
Berkeley Rep., Thrust Stage
through Nov. 29