Arts & Events

Around and About

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday December 14, 2010 - 04:38:00 PM

The second, final part of Jon Tracy's The Salt Plays, Of the Earth, produced by Shotgun Players, this time indoors (after last summer's In the Wound, at John Hinkel Park), is playing at the Ashby Stage. The best-looking of the Tracy productions I've seen—he has a flair for design concepts—Of the Earth is a take on Homer's Odyssey, following the Iliad of In the Wound

(There's been a streak of adaptations of Homer's epics lately, from ACT's version of Christopher Logue's poetic variation on The Iliad, to Central Works' recent, excellent Penelope's Odyssey, by Gary Graves.) 

Of the Earth, from an idea by Tracy (who wrote and directed) and Dan Bruno, features Bruno as the wily (and frantic) Odysseus, framed by a set (Nina Ball's) with scaffolds like ship's rigging, manned by an ensemble of movement theater women (Anna Ishida, Charisee Loriaux—whose sister Bridgette choreographed—Rami Margron, Emily Rosenthal, Elena Wright), many of them dancers, who play a combo of gods, goddesses, sirens, soldiers and, as a unit, Polyphemus the Cyclops, with a big electric lamp for an eye. Constant projections, intermittent music, give it a big, multimedia "total theater" feel, at least to start with. 

Penelope (Lexie Papedo), always along with Odysseus, at least in spirit (and a few hot-blooded arguments), in his wanderings, has a few routines with her ball of yarn, which, stretched out, provides a more interesting show than the more famous string routine in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice. Daniel Petzold plays Telemachus, emerging out of the TV room through automatic sliding doors to the laughter of the suitors catching the news on Troy. 

A lot of ideas, some good (a repeated, humorous counting-under-breath by the Wily One, a riff from Lord Dunsany and Samuel Beckett (though their prose, not theater) and an awful lot of directions, but surprisingly little acting, as well as somewhat garbled dynamics overall, as well as with the follow-through of theme and variations. With all the motions of the journey, still a somewhat static piece ... The Odyssey itself is cut short, lacking the balance the tale-within-a-tale (and the presence of Nausicaa, whose name, ironically, means "burner of ships") gives in the episode on Phaeacia, as well as the years with Calypso Much else is hurriedly sketched in. Tracy has the urge—and the will—to write, produce, direct. A bit more follow-through, and the results might chime more with that impressive glimpse of the production at opening curtain and periodically throughout its course. Wednesdays through Sundays through January 16 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby at MLK. $17-$26. 841-6500; 

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The creative folks of Ragged Wing Ensemble introduce their Youth Ensemble in Your Name Is Here—Tu Nombre Esta Aqui, written and directed by Amy Sass, assisted by Keith Davis, produced by Anna Shneiderman. Last two performances: Friday & Saturday at the Metal shop Theater, on Regent Street around the back of Willard school, off Telegraph. $2-$10. 


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The last weekend for the—salaciously!—extended run of David Bell's The Play About the Naked Guy, directed by Evren Odicikin, at Impact, in LaVal's Subterranean, Euclid off Hearst in the old Northside, a play that's perhaps the most talked-off, locally, in months. Through the 18th. $12-$20. 464-4468; 

'Tis the season for holiday shows. Besides the usual fare, Nutcracker, Messiah, A Christmas Carol, local companies are putting on more unusual treats, sometimes aimed at adult revelers: Aurora Theatre Co's bringing back that seasoned husband and wife cabaret team Meg MacKay and Billy Philadelphia—whose delightful Cole Porter songfest, A Little Cole in Your Stocking, aptly described as "witty, intimate," charmed audiences at the Aurora over two seasons, four or five years back—for Naughty & Nice, a new showcase with numbers both from The Great American Songbook and unusual holiday tunes. 

Meg MacKay's known locally for singing with symphony orchestras as well as with Beach blanket Babylon. She starred in Aurora Artistic Director Tom Ross's A Karen Carpenter Christmas. Billy Philadelphia, a presence in the Bay Area for a quarter century, formerly KNBR's Man About Town, accompanied Dame Edna and starred here and in Miami in his own show, Hoagy, about Hoagy Carmichael and his music. 

Naughty & Nice will inaugurate public performances in the new Nell and Jules Dashow Wing of the Aurora, another reason to catch this show, for a look at a new, flexible and intriguing performance space. Eight shows only, all at 7:30, December 17, 18, 21-23, 28, 30 at the Aurora, 2081 Addison near Shattuck. $23-$25. 843-4822 or 

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And at Contra Costa Civic Theatre this weekend, their holiday cabaret, featuring holiday favorites and rarities performed by four leading men of local musical theater: Derrick Silva, Lamont Ridgell, Laurie De Seguriant, Sean Fenton. Saturday at 8, Sunday at 2. 951 Pomona at Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. $20. 524-9132; 

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Jazz/R&B singer Nicolas Bearde will celebrate his new holiday EP, "Snowflakes," with a holiday show at Piedmont Piano Company this Thursday at 8, 18th and San Pablo in Uptown Oakland, featuring his trio and guest vocals by Clairdee. $25 for the show, an autographed EP, and a reception after with wine and chocolate—and that great warmth Nic's famous for. 547-8188;;