In the news

Newspaper headline photo

Recent coverage and accolades

Berkeley Repertory Theatre has built an international reputation for work that is adventurous, ambitious, provocative, and intelligent. Our shows aren’t just embraced by audiences and praised by critics—they’re also frequently the topic of major news stories. Here’s a look at the media’s recent coverage of Berkeley Rep…

Open all · Close all

Party People

  • “As intellectually stimulating as its fluid, nonstop action is overwhelming…Fast, confrontational, reflective by turns, and packed with music and dance as propulsive as the years when the groups were spawned…Volatile, fiery choreography and spirit-moving blues, jazz, work-song and Latino songs…Showstopping numbers…A well-deserved, prolonged standing ovation…Power to the people, indeed!”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Thrilling…A relentlessly kinetic musical memoir about the ambitions and regrets of 1960s revolutionaries…Powerful and raw…Millicent Johnnie’s choreography is haunting, evoking complicated themes with simple movements. The music, which incorporates salsa, hip-hop, gospel and blues, is flat-out hypnotic…Let the production wash over you like a jagged theatrical collage, [and] Party People will leave its mark on you.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “As relevant and as thought-provoking as it is, Party People is also mightily entertaining…From the extraordinary opening musical number that creates historical context for this intertwining story of the Panthers and the Lords, we become caught up in the flow of revolutionary zeal…The audience was instantly on its collective feet at show’s end, applauding thunderously, shouting and hooting.”—Theater Dogs
  • “This show is all about feeling and, more generally, humanity…Takes the standard musical formula and completely rips it up, unceremonious shreds it to pieces, and thankfully refuses to acknowledge the restrictions of standard theater convention. And thank our lucky stars for that. This is pure adrenaline.”—Stark Insider
  • “People can (and should) debate how Party People stands as a political statement, but as a piece of theater it’s a crusher. Maybe it’s all too much for Oregon, but the Berkeley crowd ate it up. And why shouldn’t they? The show is good for: Revolutionaries, bystanders and regretful sellouts alike. The show is not good for: The Man.”—Edge San Francisco
  • “You’re in for an exhilarating evening…Under the direction of Liesl Tommy, the evening’s insistent and infectious music, including the hip-hop (of which I confess, I am not a fan), the choreography, scenic and lighting design, camera projection and general stage craft are all original and all first rate. The talented actors make the topnotch writing come alive. Party People has outstanding visceral, emotional and intellectual impact. That’s very rare in one piece of theater.”—Berkeleyside

An Audience with Meow Meow

  • “Ferociously entertaining…This is musical theater as an act of subversion in fishnets and heels…Part burlesque, part Brechtian parable, this 100-minute deconstructed cabaret act—backed by two male dancers and a four-piece band—trades in the explosive nature of the unexpected…Imagine Dame Edna crossed with Hedwig and Ute Lemper in a gleefully bawdy lounge act…There’s no denying the allure of Meow Meow’s purrfectly calibrated diva persona. The Weimar-style vamp-cum-comedian fancies herself the ‘Mother Courage of performance art.’ Armed with an impressive voice and limber stage antics, she seems to be giving her all to tickle us, and that’s hard to resist.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area New Group
  • “An Australian singer with a remarkably flexible, full voice and a wide-eyed elfin-vamp persona, Meow Meow seems to specialize in cabaret teetering on the brink of comically self-inflicted disaster…She’s a sexy, long-legged chanteuse…She’s a picture of alluring grace one moment and a klutz clambering up on stage the next, with the funniest way of getting up out of a split that I’ve ever seen…A compelling and uniquely gifted performer!”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “90 minutes of increasingly dire wardrobe malfunctions, technical mishaps, injured dancers, fleeing musicians, and a producer who literally pulls the plug. But still the show must go on, happily for us!”—Bay Area Reporter
  • “The songs cover a wide ground, and Meow Meow delivers them brilliantly. Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ and Harry Warren’s ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ are show-stoppers. ‘Itsy Bitsy,’ delivered in English, French and ‘Eastern European,’ is hilarious. Original songs by Iain Grandage, Thomas Lauderdale and Meow Meow are delightful surprises. Just as surprising is how poignant Meow Meow can be. The emotional atmosphere of An Audience turns on a dime. When she sings ‘Be Careful’ by Patty Griffin, this diva can break your heart.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “Meow Meow is really something, whether she’s being an adept physical comedian, a post-apocalyptic cabaret star or just an emotionally astute singer standing before a crowd. To be in her audience is to be in for a rich, rambunctious experience.”—Theater Dogs
  • “She’s bawdy and brash, tender and vulnerable; she’s graceful and klutzy, commanding and helpless. She’s a singer who hits every vocal nuance, whether serious or satiric; a high-energy dancer who could probably double as a contortionist; a comic who draws roars from pratfalls, subtle glances, punchlines and sensuality. She calls herself Meow Meow and—need I say this after that lead-in—she’s wonderful.”—Huffington Post
  • “Delightful, with some truly hilarious audience interactions…Along the way she delivers compelling and often hysterical renditions of songs from Jacques Brel to Bertolt Brecht, from Patti Griffin to Radiohead, accompanied by a sharp onstage quartet led by pianist/arranger Lance Horne.”—KQED Arts
  • “Prepare to have your preconceptions, and your mind, blown away…One of those unique theatrical events that come along all too rarely. This special experience, one truly shared between artist and audience, is love at first sight…A melding of Joan Collins, Lady Gaga, Lucille Ball, and Liza Minnelli on steroids, Meow Meow is as uncategorizable as she is dazzlingly unpredictable…Rarely have I seen a performer connect with an audience on this level.”—Stage and Cinema

Best features on Berkeley Rep

About Berkeley Rep

About our new campus

About The Ground Floor

Features on Tony Taccone

Features on Susan Medak

Our shows hit it big in NY and beyond

“Suddenly the Rep is one of the Bay Area’s leading export companies,” exclaimed the San Francisco Chronicle in a story that celebrated how our shows have been traveling to cities nationwide. Here are the rave reviews for shows that you saw locally before they were reborn abroad…

Open all · Close all

2010: Tiny Kushner meets Big Ben

We’re quite chuffed that Tiny Kushner met Big Ben in 2010, causing the British press to buzz about Berkeley Rep. A sparkling string of one-act plays from legendary playwright Tony Kushner, this show debuted at the Guthrie Theater in May 2009 and played to acclaim at Berkeley Rep that fall. Then, with its original cast and creative team intact, Tiny Kushner enjoyed a limited three-week run at London’s Tricycle Theatre. It’s the second time that Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone has taken one of our shows to London, and we’re bloody proud. In 2004, his production of Continental Divide by David Edgar traveled to the Barbican after playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and England’s Birmingham Rep. British critics loved our latest transatlantic transfer:

  • “A fireworks display of invention and erudition…Real-life characters and events receive typically surreal, freewheeling treatment from the playwright best known for his gay fantasia Angels in America. And Tony Taccone’s Guthrie/Berkeley Repertory Theater production zips along…The result is a quirky combination of biography and political and social history, in which the most colourful details often turn out to be true.”—Time Out London
  • “Small but perfectly performed…If you’ve a taste for left politics, trippy fantasy, intellectual exhibitionism and kvetching New York-Jewish comedy, this is your night…This sporty premiere, directed by Tony Taccone, brings over from the US five mini-plays in one evening. The performers are beautifully balanced: Valeri Mudek in innocent blonde parts, Kate Eifrig edgy and alarming, Jim Lichtscheidl doing narratives and uncanny imitations of teenage girls, and JC Cutler in wilder character parts. They all play in perfectionist, passionate accord with Kushner’s intense style and wild imagination.”—London Times
  • “This is fierce, strange and clever theatre. It isn’t ‘tiny’ at all…Tony Taccone’s production sustains a nice rhythm across the five constituent parts, yet it’s Kushner’s linguistic dexterity that impresses most. There’s a quality of abstract oddity in his writing that, surprisingly, begets not a sense of cerebral hauteur but instead a humorous and heartfelt appreciation of the moral ambiguities of modern American life.”—Evening Standard
  • “Don’t be deceived by the title. Tiny Kushner actually offers a lot of Tony Kushner…Flip Flop Fly proves a comic delight. In contrast, the final play is darker and more disturbing…This is Kushner at his best—original, uncomfortable and revealing a genuine compassion for the former First Lady while savaging the folly of US military action…Tony Taccone directs with wit and precision, and the four-strong company perform with panache.”—Daily Telegraph
  • “Verbally extravagant and full of one-liners…Ms Eifrig is magnificent in the haunting, climactic play in which Laura Bush, then First Lady, travels to paradise to read The Brothers Karamazov to a trio of Iraqi children who perished because of American aggression. The premise is uncomfortable; the moral (that killing children is wrong) incontestable. But Kushner turns potential queasiness to dramatic advantage. We watch Mrs Bush’s gracious smile congeal to a stricken stare as a guardian angel relays the tragic facts. The resulting conflict creates a painfully moving, speculative portrait of a decent, divided soul.”—London Independent
  • “A playful, political evening performed with elan…In these five short plays imported from the Guthrie Theatre and Berkeley Rep, Kushner reveals his gift for blending the hallucinatory and the political…Tony Taccone’s production saves the best till last: a playlet, which caused a scandal in America, in which Laura Bush treats a group of dead Iraqi children to a summation of the Grand Inquisitor’s speech from The Brothers Karamazov.”—London Guardian
  • “I loved it. I thought it was brilliant. I really loved the combination of political theater and comedy and the absurdism that Tony Kushner does so well.”—BBC
  • “Entertaining and stimulating…The title is not just a pun, but almost an oxymoron. Tony Kushner is not a playwright renowned for his terseness: think of the great sprawling dramatic duvet that is his Angels In America diptych. Even in this collection of one-act plays, his prolixity keeps bursting out…As is typical of Kushner at his best, the piece’s attitudes may be obvious but their expression is richly complex and insightful, and Eifrig is excellent as Mrs Bush. Tony Taccone’s production for Berkeley Repertory Theatre is unfussy, with the four actors reciting set-up stage directions, and Kushner’s material resonates with the Tricycle’s policy of engaged participation in public issues.”—Financial Times
  • “It’s the sharpness of the writing that powers through this British premiere of five short plays by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tony Kushner. There is such clarity conveyed not just in the language but in the rhythm and the nuance. Ideas and phrases honey drip from the script. Listening is an indulgence. This is enriched by the four strong performances from the small cast.”—The Stage
  • “Feisty…It’s always a pleasure to welcome actors as good as these from the other side of the pond: Tony Taccone, one of Kushner’s longtime associates, directs a versatile quartet in some acidic, fantastic collisions between Richard Nixon’s therapist and the Recording Angel; a bizarre St Louis beauty queen turned entertainer and the scary real-life Queen of Albania; and Laura Bush and three invisible dead Iraqi children. This latter sketch is easily the best, profoundly squirm-inducing as Kate Eifrig’s Laura offers false comfort and apology while reading from her favourite author, Dostoevksy.”—What’s On Stage
  • “Kushner’s subject is no less than the US itself and here he exposes its many modern paradoxes through fantastical flights across time and space…Tony Taccone’s Berkeley Rep ensemble production is as tight as a drum.”—Metro London
  • “As a treat for English viewers, this production has moved from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and Berkeley Repertory Theatre lock stock and barrel, under the direction of Tony Taccone. He has the benefit of four extremely versatile and very witty actors who will not be familiar to British audiences and make the most of the chances provided by so many different roles.”—British Theatre Guide

2009: Broadway buzzes about Berkeley Rep’s Vibrator

In November, Associate Artistic Director Les Waters made his Broadway debut with In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). Berkeley Rep commissioned this script from MacArthur genius Sarah Ruhl and staged its world premiere earlier that year; then Lincoln Center Theater gave it new life at the Lyceum Theater in New York. This was the fourth show that Berkeley Rep helped send to Broadway in the last four years!

The reviews were full of good vibrations…In addition, check out a fascinating interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition and this fun feature in the Wall Street Journal that wondered if Broadway audiences could handle all those paroxysms.

  • “INSPIRED…In the Next Room is a true novelty: a sex comedy designed not for sniggering teenage boys—or grown men who wish they were still sniggering teenage boys—but for adults with open hearts and minds…The ideas underpinning the play, about the fundamental lack of sympathy between men and women of the period, and the dubious scientific theories that sometimes reinforced women’s subjugation, are serious. In the Next Room illuminates with a light touch—a soft, flickering light rather than a moralizing glare—how much control men had over women’s lives, bodies and thoughts, even their most intimate sensations. [It] is directed by Les Waters with a fine sensitivity to its varied textures. Insightful, fresh and funny, the play is as rich in thought as it is in feeling.”—New York Times
  • “THRILLING…superbly directed by Les Waters…In the Next Room brings scintillating news of the politics of desire, scientific history, and sexual behavior. Part of the comedy of Ruhl’s play—her most commercial and her best to date—is her nonjudgmental attack on a sensational subject. Ruhl hides her impish intelligence behind a simple style, maintaining a droll, detached sense of wonder at both the sexual ignorance and the sexual discoveries of her characters…In a low-key but daring way, Ruhl has extended the geography of the comedy of manners. Sex is always complicated, therefore always funny; Ruhl, however, never laughs at her bewildered, repressed characters, who are either lumbered by frustrations that they can’t explain or reeling with a desire for which they have no words…Ruhl’s playwriting is inspired; in the second act, she never falters as she puts her characters through the paces of passion with a special high-comic gravity and grace…In the Next Room gives ‘the body electric’ a whole new meaning.”—The New Yorker
  • “SENSUAL and dare we say it, surprisingly romantic…The dawn of electricity and the quest for sexual fulfillment. Who knew the two could be linked so satisfactorily on stage? But then Thomas Edison gets profusely thanked in Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the vibrator play, a perceptive comedy about female liberation of a very specific kind. This provocative, often quite funny play, which Lincoln Center Theater opened Thursday at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, is Ruhl’s most entertaining work to date. Not only because of its sexual subject matter but because she has created a parade of appealing, fully drawn characters.”—Associated Press
  • “POETIC…In the Next Room or the vibrator play goes where no Broadway show has gone before. And we’re not talking about nudity (though there’s some of that) or graphic sexuality. Ruhl presents something a lot more intimate and a lot more daring: women’s discovery of their own bodies and their own pleasure. It may be the first time we’ve seen characters repeatedly reach orgasm on a mainstream stage—in a Lincoln Center Theater production, no less—and it happens in a play that’s smart, delicate and very, very funny…As well written as the play is, it could easily have gone astray in the wrong hands. But director Les Waters and his cast proceed with great sensitivity. Cerveris’ earnest, slightly stiff physicality is put to good use here, while Benanti and Dizzia brim with a contagious glee in their shared scenes.”—New York Post
  • “PURE PLEASURE…Sarah Ruhl should write more porn. Her works of brainy, feathered whimsy generally hover a few safe inches over dolorous themes—death, depression, unbridgeable distances between the sexes and between people in general. But her latest, the giggly, teasing, shamelessly entertaining In the Next Room or the vibrator play, displays something new: a pornographer’s instinct for instant gratification. Positioned somewhere between a dirty joke and an educated guess, the play draws on historical fact—Victorian doctors really did administer machine-assisted genital massage to ‘hysterical’ women—to tell the tale of a staid physician (Michael Cerveris), his ebullient wife (Laura Benanti), and the miraculous device that comes between them. The play begins as an extravagantly elongated gag, morphs into an upended A Doll’s House, and ultimately verges on romantic comedy…Ruhl’s a great intellect, a true entertainer, an authoritative American voice that Broadway desperately needs. Let her milk it a little.”—New York Magazine
  • “PROVOCATIVE…ambitious and surprisingly moving…In the Next Room will elicit paroxysms of mirth…By turns deftly farcical and deeply poignant, In the Next Room raises questions that transcend gender and, for that matter, time…The laughs that result (and there are many) are offset by the difficulties endured by Ruhl’s female characters…The actresses all do justice to this vivid, bittersweet humanity that Ruhl affords them, as do their male castmates. By showing how women and men struggle with both pleasure and pain, In the Next Room offers something a lot more satisfying than cheap thrills or cheesy self-empowerment.”—USA Today
  • “BEGUILING…a period-appropriate comedy of manners about an inappropriate subject…There are so many lingering moments of emotional truth, and even more of daring comedy, that the play amuses and charms…Les Waters, who first directed the play at Berkeley Rep, has an agreeably light touch that allows the comedy to milk every ounce of naughtiness without tipping over into puerility. The treatment scenes in particular benefit from staging that underlines the clinical nature of the approach while slyly tickling the audience’s more contemporary attitudes toward sexuality and manual stimulation. And the scene in which Mrs. Givings and Mrs. Daldry turn into complicitous, giggling schoolgirls when they get their illicit hands on the doc’s equipment is a riot.”—Variety
  • “STIMULATING. Although it would seem to hold the promise of being an extended dirty joke, Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the vibrator play actually is a surprisingly funny and sensitive portrait of the eternal disconnect between men and women…The playwright, responsible for such works as The Clean House and Dead Man’s Cell Phone, mines her subject for suitably bawdy humor without resorting to vulgarity. But what really gives the work its distinction is its sensitive exploration of the physical and emotional repression suffered by the women of the era, which has yet to disappear entirely. Nor does Ruhl neglect the male side of things, as evidenced by the beautifully staged final scene in which Mrs. Givings provides her husband with a lesson about the beauty of his own body. The play, seen at the Berkeley Rep, has been given a pitch-perfect Broadway staging that beautifully balances its humor and pathos. Under the sensitive direction of Les Waters, the ensemble delivers sterling performances, with Benanti a particular delight as the woman for whom electricity turns out to be a marriage saver.”—Hollywood Reporter
  • “COMIC and poignant…a compelling yarn with engaging characters…This premise could easily devolve into a silly sex farce or a strident feminist critique; in fact, Ruhl samples from both without becoming indebted to either…She doesn’t just point at historical ignorance and cackle, but probes sympathetically, to portray a marriage warped by shame and secrecy, in which scientific ritual occludes common sense and instinct…Ruhl achieves an unforced aura of hopeful wonder—for the future of both love and science.”—Time Out New York
  • “ENDEARING…a painful and riotous symphony of sexual searching…Ruhl’s grasp of her characters is strong, and their troubles are affectingly depicted…Director Les Waters’ production mines the comic potential of this setup, with the audience howling at the sexual misconceptions espoused and the powerful effects of Dr. Givings’ marvelous instrument. Waters also stresses the tragedies caused by the characters’ being out of touch with their bodies…As the vibrant Mrs. Givings, Laura Benanti is a ball of fire barely contained by costume designer David Zinn’s elegant but restrictive corsets and gowns. Best known for her roles in musicals, including a Tony-winning turn in Gypsy, Benanti is emerging as one of our best young actors. Her Mrs. Givings is wildly funny as she blurts out inappropriate observations and achingly moving as she tearfully seeks to fill voids in her soul and libido. Fellow Tony winner Michael Cerveris is equally complex as Dr. Givings, who believes he’s a forward-thinking scientist but is as convention-bound as the most domineering husband. In a shattering final scene, beautifully staged by Waters with the aid of Annie Smart’s moving (both literally and figuratively) set and Russell H. Champa’s warm lighting, Cerveris bravely sheds both the doctor’s insecurities and his clothes.”—Back Stage
  • “DELIGHTFUL…If Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde had decided to collaborate on a post-modern drawing-room comedy, the hotsy-totsy twosome surely would have turned out something very much like Sarah Ruhl’s genuinely hysterical new work In the Next Room or the vibrator play…Handed material that theatergoers stuck in a bygone age might find unsavory, director Les Waters has honed it to a fare-thee-well. (He also helmed the piece for its Berkeley Repertory Theatre debut.) And his actors are certainly a game lot…Ruhl is so accomplished in her aim as she progresses toward a dazzling Edenic conclusion that Sigmund Freud himself might have applauded her bold grappling with civilization and its discontents. He might even have conceded that Ruhl supplies the correct answer to the question that baffled him, ‘What do women want?’”—TheaterMania
  • “SUPERB…Ruhl’s flighty Vibrator Play lives up to the buzz. [She] has written a smart, charming, iridescently funny-serious jewel…As Ruhl traces it with wit and insight, and without the slightest prurience, the birth of this new era gives rise to colorful events, astute psychological revelations and endearingly apt dialogue…Les Waters has directed compellingly on Annie Smart’s scrupulous set, abetted by David Zinn’s elaborately sober costumes and Russell H. Champa’s electricity-enamored lighting. Laura Benanti is the most incandescent Mrs. Givings imaginable. She knows how to make flightiness winsome and gush graceful. Michael Cerveris’s Doctor is flawless in the exacting traversal from cool scientist through jealous spouse to liberated wife-lover. And as the bumpily recovering Mrs. Daldry, Maria Dizzia is enchantingly exuberant.”—Bloomberg
  • “FANCIFUL…Commissioned by Berkeley Rep, which is becoming something of a feeder theater for Broadway—Wishful Drinking this year, Passing Strange last year, and probably Green Day’s American Idiot next year—In The Next Room could not hope for a better production. Annie Smart’s set is a credible facsimile down to the wallpaper, costume designer David Zinn’s bustles, corsets, vested suits and gloves seem exactly right. The acting is uniformly spot-on, precise and believable—no broad winking—from a cast of seven, made up of both well-known Broadway names Laura Benanti (Tony-winner for Gypsy; Into the Woods; The Sound of Music) as Mrs. Givings and Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd; Assassins; Titanic) as Dr. Givings and such Off-Broadway mainstays as Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Obie-winner for Ruined), who plays a wet nurse for Mrs. Givings’ infant and Maria Dizzia, a particular stand-out as Mrs. Daldry, the doctor’s unhappy patient. Ruhl herself, with the help of director Les Waters, establishes right from the start through dialogue and gesture the period’s patronizing attitude towards women that amounts to oppression, the quaint fascination with electricity, the misplaced obsession with propriety, the ignorance about sexual pleasure, the wrong-headedness of the doctor’s approach.”—The Faster Times

2009: Fisher and Taccone go Drinking on Broadway

In the fall of 2009, Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone returned to Broadway with his production of Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, which set box-office records during its two runs in Berkeley, became a New York Times bestseller and played to sold-out crowds on a six-city national tour. Manhattan proved to be no different than the rest of the country—critics and audiences loved the show:

  • “Hilarious…You’re going to like it. A lot. Ms. Fisher—an actress, writer and sometime heroine of the tabloids—is the creator and cast of Wishful Drinking, the brut-dry, deeply funny memoir of a show that opened on Sunday night at Studio 54, directed by Tony Taccone…Ms. Fisher makes you feel you’ve arrived for a slumber party to swap confidences. Never mind that she does most of the talking. She has the gift, possessed by only the smartest and most charming of narcissists, of making you think that it’s somehow all about you…Ms. Fisher was blessed with a sense of the howling absurdity built into fishbowl lives…What she is doing, most cannily, is letting you see the Carrie Fisher Defense System in action. I mean the one that’s built on the transformational power of epigrams instead of pills.”—New York Times
  • “Confession may be good for the soul, but does it make for good theater? Yes, indeed. Especially when the author and star is Carrie Fisher, daughter of showbiz royalty, Star Wars icon, manic-depressive, alcoholic and astute observer of the Hollywood scene. Fisher is a raconteur in the best sense of the word. She knows how to tell a story. And Wishful Drinking, her hilariously perceptive journey through a world of celebrity and self-destruction, is chock-full of funny, fascinating tales. It helps that Fisher has enormous rapport with the audience at Broadway’s Studio 54…Wishful Drinking produces large laughs. Fisher’s jaundiced view of the luxurious movieland lifestyle is priceless.”—Associated Press
  • “In Wishful Drinking—her personable, almost excruciatingly personal autobiographical show and gossip-fest—the witty actress/author clearly appreciates the absurdity of her own tabloid-ready life…She makes an expert witness to fame in all its ridiculousness and peril, who knows that celebrity is ‘obscurity biding its time.’ She’s a loose cannon with satirist’s discipline, a still-crazy-after-all-these-years survivor…As Fisher sees it, this is material begging to be confronted and enjoyed in public—not just postcards from the edge, but live onstage with glitter and an R2D2 throw pillow on the divan…tenderly directed by Tony Taccone and developed at his Berkeley Repertory Theatre.”—Newsday
  • “Loopy and laid back…Carrie Fisher carries the day in Wishful Drinking…With Fisher’s winning wit and gift for gab you’re glad to sit around and laugh with her for a couple of hours…Briskly directed by Tony Taccone, Wishful whips through incidents previewed by dishy headlines flashed on a screen in Alexander V. Nichols’ funky living room set, tricked out with comfy couches, a garden gnome and gigantic red apple. She welcomes you in for juicy stories, caustic quips and gobs of self-deprecation.”—Daily News
  • “Wildly entertaining…harrowing and hilarious…Drinking is terrific fun, sort of like reading dozens of outrageous tabloid-newspaper stories in one sitting while their subject gets to respond to them…What elevates the proceedings beyond the usual Hollywood confessional, besides the sheer exoticism of her experiences, is Fisher’s ability to craft both hilarious one-liners and nearly poetic observations about her life.”—Reuters
  • “This is pretty delicious…Fisher is likable, acerbic, clever and wryly forthcoming about the warped reality of life in the celebrity bubble…Fisher’s avoidance of self-pity when reflecting on her lowest points is as admirable as her disdain for self-congratulation.”—Variety
  • “Hollywood celebrities beware, Carrie Fisher is on the loose and taking no prisoners in her one-woman tour de force, Wishful Drinking, now playing on Broadway at Roundabout Theatre’s Studio 54. Fisher, most recognizable from her turn as the bun-haired princess in Star Wars, has taken to the stage to tell a tale, or three, of her ups and mostly downs over the last 50 years, and shines brighter than any star in George Lucas’ faraway galaxy…There is something for every car crash rubbernecking, gossip-hungry person to enjoy in Wishful Drinking. Fisher even throws those sentimental types a bone or two, although she is quick to break through those downer moments with a readied zinger…Wishful Drinking never fails to keep the audience rolling in the aisles. Fisher need not be a stand-up comedian as her radiant personality and wry sense of humor continuously satisfy.”—Broadway World
  • “Fisher is such a cheerfully sober—and sometimes subtly sobering—host that a good time is had by all…Fortunately, whatever vices she no longer has, Fisher is still addicted to the temptation to be ironic on every aspect of the dazzling, dizzying, dysfunctional life she’s led…Throughout, Fisher has an ability to use words like Play-Doh, manipulating them to her clever advantage.”—TheaterMania
  • “Extremely funny…a witty, engaging evening, presented by a woman who didn’t take the easy path…Fisher recounts her life and times with a bracing combination of wryness and cynicism, and without self-pity. Even if you don’t like confessional theater and feel like crawling under your seat when a celebrity, in the name of honesty, reveals all, you might find yourself laughing your head off at Fisher’s stories.”—Star-Ledger

2009: Wishful Drinking becomes a bestseller

After Carrie Fisher broke sales records at Berkeley Rep with Wishful Drinking, she repeated that success in print. Even before this outrageous solo show became a Broadway hit, the book version of it turned into a New York Times bestseller which received rave reviews from around the world:

  • “She shoots straight from the hip to the heart. The ease of the style, the thrill of the flow! The book is gone in an instant…Only 170 or so pages long, it manages feverishly and hilariously to cover Fisher’s babyhood, plump-teenager angst, stint as front woman in the trilogy of Star Wars films, failed marriage to the singer Paul Simon and various drug-induced nervous breakdowns, without pausing for breath…As the chapters get smaller, the emotions expand to fill every available space. On page after page, Fisher is seamlessly simultaneously crazy and tender…And she writes precisely as she looks: like a continually fresh and bold idea.”—London Times
  • “Funny as hell…Her stories bubble, bounce, and careen with an energy as loose as the jauntiness in The Best Awful was tight. Get someone to read this rollicking book aloud to you—then trade off and you play Leia.”—Entertainment Weekly
  • “Princess Leia’s wit tames the Dark Side…It buttonholes you and, desperate to please, wrings laughs from the story of Ms. Fisher’s strange, off-the-wall journey. She won’t let you feel sorry for her, which is greatly to her credit in this age of needy, tell-all celebrity memoirs…The jokes—the puns, the wisecracks, the deadpan one-liners—come rattling along at the rate of one every other sentence or so.”—New York Times
  • “An honest, funny, near-libelous look at the Hollywood elite…perhaps the last insider account of true celebrity aristocracy…Wishful Drinking should be read as an account, as touching and incisive as any, of bipolarity, addiction, and motherhood.”—The London Independent
  • “Fisher has a knack for titles. But she also has a talent for lacerating insight that masquerades as carefree self-deprecation…You could say this book is a blistering stream of witty comments, or a dazzling romp through the experiences of a woman who once sought drug-addiction counsel from Cary Grant. But it isn’t really about any of that. It’s about the dizzying, dissonant music of Carrie Fisher’s existence…The effect, ultimately, is extraordinarily painful while being extremely entertaining. This is Fisher’s distinctive trick and what has kept her going in Hollywood for decades.”—Los Angeles Times
  • “Anyone who enjoyed her brilliant novel Postcards from the Edge will love it. She has a wonderful self-deprecating wit and total lack of self-pity—there is none of the I Will Survive grandiosity one expects from Hollywood memoirs.”—London Telegraph
  • “What about something wickedly funny and totally offbeat? Does the name Carrie Fisher do anything for you? Try her vivid and outrageous new memoir of life in Hollywood and elsewhere, Wishful Drinking (Simon & Schuster). Be prepared for humor as sharp as knives and hefty doses of psychological soul-baring (and a lot more than that). Note to rabid Simon and Garfunkel fans: There is an entire chapter on her relationship with Paul. And a pic or two. Delicious.”—Readers’ Digest
  • “Carrie Fisher can’t stop writing or talking about her life, but who can really blame her? With stories like these, there’s no need for her to hide behind fiction any more. Wishful Drinking began as a stage show, and certain zingers have a polished Borscht Belt ring, while other passages are incredibly poetic; Fisher writes movingly about what it’s like to be born into celebrity and never really leave. At the very least, her memoir lays waste to the tabazine conceit that stars are ‘just like us.’”—Variety
  • “Fisher’s big, beautiful brain is the perfect filter for a life too trippy and surreal for fiction. I like to think that in every soul-shattering trauma lies an amusing anecdote. Fisher’s life beautifully illustrates my theory: she’s capable of wringing the breeziest of laughs from the most horrifying of experiences. Her delightful memoir Wishful Drinking delves deep into the seldom-explored lighter side of alcoholism, parental abandonment, drug addiction, manic-depression, and what used to be called ‘electro-shock therapy.’”—The Onion’s AV Club
  • “With acerbic precision and brash humor, she writes of struggling with and enjoying aspects of her alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental breakdowns…Her razor-sharp observations about celebrity, addiction, and sexuality demand to be read aloud to friends.”—Publishers Weekly

2009: Passing Strange: The Movie

Passing Strange, the provocative rock musical that was born at Berkeley Rep, burst onto Broadway with its original cast intact. It won awards and acclaim at every stop of its long, strange trip. As if that weren’t enough, celebrated director Spike Lee shot two of the show’s final performances to preserve it for future generations. The resulting film debuted at Sundance and then screened at South by Southwest, the Seattle International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was picked up by PBS. Here are some of the rapturous reviews for the film version of Passing Strange:

  • “In rethinking the Tony-winning 2008 rock musical Passing Strange for the screen, director Spike Lee made sure to do the right thing: not fuck up what worked like gangbusters onstage. Lee and the masterful cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Iron Man, Inside Man) brought their HD cameras to Broadway’s Belasco Theatre to film two live performances with the original cast. Then, for greater cinematic dynamism, they shot a performance without an audience, letting the cameras rock out in their own freewheeling dance. The invigorating result, zestily edited by Lee’s own inside iron man, Barry Brown, is in every way a knockout…On stage and screen are a host of mesmerizing, multitasking talents, including Chad Goodridge, Colman Domingo and the electrifying De’Adre Aziza and Rebecca Naomi Jones as the women in this youth’s life. And permeating everything is that thrilling score in which rock, punk, funk and gospel conduct a revival meeting that blows the roof off. Stew’s voice, which can twist from mellow to shout without missing a nuance, is a distinct pleasure. And the lyrics, whether evoking an Amsterdam where ‘men dressed up in Gauloise smoke quote Marx right back at you’ or the pain of missing life while you’re ‘working your wound,’ shame the usual Broadway treacle.”—Rolling Stone
  • “I was blown away…The show does two contradictory things at once, both brilliantly: it captures the impatient emergence of a budding artistic personality with a perfect mixture of sympathy and skepticism, and also reckons the sometimes devastating costs of a young artist’s desire to set himself free and make himself real…Camera movements and compositions immerse the viewer at once in the story and the process of performance, emphasizing both the play’s artifice and its fidelity to emotional facts. The members of the small cast, several of whom take on multiple roles, are shown in the full, sweaty glory of self-transformation…And it is Stew’s refusal to sentimentalize his life that makes him a trustworthy guide to it. But at the same time, his refusal to condescend to the desire to wrest art from experience, or to the crystallizations of that desire in Los Angeles garages or Berlin cabarets, makes Passing Strange moving, thrilling and new. That and the music, a pastiche of styles given coherence by the rumble of Stew’s voice and the snarl and wail of his electric guitar. Passing Strange is less a collection of songs—though there are a few, most notably ‘Keys (Marianna),’ that stand out—than a single headlong piece of music. You might say a rock opera, if that phrase did not summon up spectacles of bloated self-importance entirely antithetical to the spirit of this show. A show not simply preserved by Mr. Lee’s camera, but brought, somehow, to its fullest, strangest, most electrifying realization.”—New York Times
  • “Nimbly directed by Lee and propelled by a rousing cabaret rock score (by Stew and Heidi Rodewald) that cleanses the palate of contemporary Broadway’s prevailing jukebox drivel, Passing Strange conjures a rare kind of theatrical magic with its emotionally raw, frequently euphoric portrait of the artist as a young man.”—Village Voice
  • “There’s never been a musical quite like Passing Strange. There’s also never been a movie of a play like Spike Lee’s uncompromisingly dynamic take on Stew’s autobiographical art-rock creation. The film [is] a must-see for anyone who loves any of the art forms involved. Strange is a rocker-as-artist-coming-of-age story emerging, like some wondrous new life form, from the psychedelic cocoon of a particularly tuneful, varied, soulful and witty rock concert…Lee lets you see it as you can’t live, from close-ups to views of the energized audience over the actors’ shoulders. The subtleties of Stew’s emotional engagement emerge as clearly as his great, growling, bluesy voice…The result re-creates a great performance infused with last-show electricity between actors and audience…If Strange alters the future of musical theater, Lee has raised the bar for filming live performances.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Strikingly original…As someone who didn’t go to see Passing Strange on Broadway and who now, having seen Lee’s cinematic rendering, feels like an idiot for passing it up, I can tell you only that nothing I read prepared me for the show’s exuberance and vibrancy…The cast is knocking itself out, and the strikingly edited result is theater magnified, amplified, brought to a kind of life that doesn’t usually happen with filmed performances…At every turn in that twisting path, Stew provides a musical style to match—gospel, blues, punk and toe-tapping show music. And his collaborators—co-author Heidi Rodewald and stage director Annie Dorsen—provide an impressive array of staging tricks, to which Spike Lee adds considerable sizzle on screen.”—NPR
  • “Deftly capturing the exuberance of singer-songwriter Stew’s popular Broadway musical Passing Strange, Spike Lee’s new film elatedly affirms the show’s inspiring theme of creative discovery…Stew’s semi-autobiographical narrative skirts the pitfalls of conventional coming-of-age material by harnessing the boisterous energy of the endlessly inventive musical numbers, co-created with Heidi Rodewald, the bassist for the show’s band. Drawing on rock, gospel, soul and blues, the songs comment on the frequently amusing story line while also advancing it, nicely shading Stew’s onstage narration. In directing the film, Lee allows the show’s inherent vitality to carry the documentary, relying on Stew’s charismatic stage presence, the cast’s absorbing performances and the production’s effective combination of minimal staging and impressive lighting design to convey the musical’s energetic celebration of artistic discovery.”—Reuters
  • “Dazzling…With Stew as combination narrator, band leader, stage manager and puppeteer for the characters, the film traces the odyssey of a young black man called Youth (Daniel Breaker), who breaks with his mother’s down-home adherence to church and family and seeks to reinvent himself overseas.”—Associated Press
  • “We don’t get to see films of this measure very often, and it’s a rare treat when the power of voice is used to make us happy, sad, and thoughtful…Spike Lee, to his credit, realized the beauty of the musical was right there on stage—no further tinkering was needed. Spike used 14 cameras at once to capture the action like it’s never been done before. Amazingly, you never see a camera you weren’t meant to see. Intimate shots were gathered in gorgeous high-definition over the course of three shows and seamlessly edited together. It’s a technological triumph as well as an artistic one…Spike shows off stellar camera work, and the enigmatic Stew takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotion and joy.”—Film.com
  • “Intoxicating and vivid…The best film to come out of Sundance: Nothing at Sundance 2009 will be better than Spike Lee’s amazingly cinematic transcription of Passing Strange, the sensational Broadway musical by journeyman rock and cabaret artist Stew (leader of LA band The Negro Problem) about his own life and struggle for identity. Tender, sexy, funny, moving and profound, Passing Strange bears comparison not just to the great works of the American musical theatre but to literary landmarks like James Baldwin’s Another Country and (especially) Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man…Alternately melancholy and ferociously rocking as he watches his former self take the same large risks and make the same wrong turns he himself made in life, Stew is a riveting presence, who presides over the world he’s lovingly but unsparingly recreated like some kind of rueful patriarch. His story and his lyrics have the bracing and unexpected quality of specificity and a unique life lived to the fullest; as Youth bounces from LA to Amsterdam to Berlin, blossoming and supping from the fruit of every tree; he becomes a sort of black Steppenwolf, but one engaged in a constant dialectical dialogue with the man and the artist who sprang from him. Near the end of the show, when Stew and Youth stand face to face and confront each other over Stew’s lingering remorse about his mother’s death and the many ways he took her for granted and let her down, the already profound Passing Strange reaches a high note of human complexity. For Stew never takes the easy way out, nor lets either his former or his present self off the hook for what is, what has come from it and what can never be undone. To put it plainly: Passing Strange is a work of genius. And there’s nobody I can think of who shouldn’t see it.”—BoxOffice.com
  • Passing Strange is Spike Lee’s record of the Broadway musical that ran six months last year. This first-rate multicamera transcript of a terrific show should delight musical fans (and many who think they aren’t)…Lee adds two short 8mm sequences and a backstage interlude in an otherwise straightforward HD presentation as energetic as Annie Dorsen’s staging itself…The witty writing, winning perfs and often irresistibly catchy songs soon work their magic.”—Variety
  • “It’s easy to see why Spike Lee was drawn to Stew, the one-named musician and mastermind behind the Broadway production Passing Strange. Like Lee, the artist formerly known as Mark Stewart possesses a powerful and singular voice, one he uses to express vividly his own experience of growing up as a black man in America. And Lee has always shown a strong affinity for music in his films, as evidenced by his longtime collaboration with composer and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard. In bringing Stew’s show to the screen as Passing Strange: The Movie, Lee took the wise and uncharacteristic step of staying out of the way—of letting the songs and the story play out without inserting his own trademark aesthetics into them…The result is so crisp and intimate, it makes you feel as if you’re right on the minimalist stage with Stew (who also narrates), the rest of his formidable cast and the band.”—San Jose Mercury News

2009: Taking Over Los Angeles

Tony Taccone directed the world premiere of Danny Hoch’s Taking Over at Berkeley Rep in 2008, before moving it to Montreal, touring the boroughs of New York and earning an extended off-Broadway run. In 2009, the pair marched into Los Angeles with this hard-hitting look at gentrification, and Danny’s invasion was greeted with the usual enthusiasm at the Kirk Douglas Theatre:

  • “He once again turns himself into a one-man melting pot…When Hoch is in full bilingual flight as a Latino taxi dispatcher or insurgently rapping as a Marxist radical known as Launch Missiles Critical, Taking Over reaches out to audiences in a capacious, 21st-century Whitmanesque embrace…While letting off some understandable socioeconomic steam about the gentrifying armies, he pays homage to the diverse voices that are being drowned out by the privileged post-college whiners, who don’t mind a little funky street life as long as it doesn’t clog up the lines at the new Whole Foods.”—Los Angeles Times
  • “‘Can’t we all get along?’ Rodney King famously asked, and the answer that too often comes back is ‘Hell no.’ In Taking Over, Danny Hoch’s indictment of neighborhood gentrification, the hip-hop monologist identifies several root causes, notably our pervasive blindness to the reality of those (especially the underclass) with whom we share communal living space. His argument is borne more by rage than strict logic, but you can be moved by his pungent observations and performance savvy without relying on him for sober recommendations on urban planning…He’s reminiscent of Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, reviling the system’s hypocrisy but exhausted by the lack of answers…Hoch’s expert transformations always showcase his talent in high style, complemented by Alexander Nichols’ kaleidoscopic projections, which take us from stoop to loft to community center with a dazzling vitality not unlike that of the city itself.”—Variety
  • “As always, Hoch focuses on the uneasy relationship between the disenfranchised and the privileged, and in Taking Over he has found the perfect canvas and subject: the gentrification of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, where he has lived for the last 20 years. The result is an often engrossing work about the wrenching changes that have come to a place that was once a haven for crack addicts and now attracts young, moneyed professionals from all over the country…Hoch makes a persuasive case for the brutality of the dispossession that’s always the dark twin of gentrification…Director Tony Taccone makes sure the stories and characters flow seamlessly [through] a Hochian gaggle of charmers, grifters and schemers.”—Orange County Register
  • “The parodies are broad, vicious and tender at the same time…The topics change even more quickly than Hoch’s turn-on-a-dime impersonations…It’s worth seeing him perform if only for that Puck-like nimbleness that he uses to portray a series of men and women from a Brooklyn neighborhood that’s in the throes of being gentrified. This nimbleness reaches into verbal dexterity as well as the physical, hypnotic renditions of rapid-fire local cadences.”—LA Weekly

2009: A caravan to Kansas City and Chicago

After its sold-out, nine-week run at Berkeley Rep, The Arabian Nights traveled to Kansas City and Chicago in 2009. Wherever it went, Mary Zimmerman’s show received a welcome fit for a king:

  • “A cascade of life-affirming stories…The Arabian Nights, Mary Zimmerman’s thrilling Chinese box of nested Middle Eastern stories [is] 1,001 nights of sad, funny, moral, smart, silly, satirical, repeatable and ultimately redemptive yarns of Baghdad, its quirky denizens and colorful environs. These interlocking yarns dance in their visually gorgeous frames—intruding, delighting, imposing and, by the end of a couple of hugely engrossing hours, universalizing…The new production, which has already been acclaimed at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and deserves to end up on Broadway—is sharper, faster, more polished, more exciting…And here’s the best part. Whichever way you are looking at the opening, the conclusion is life-affirming and satisfying in every respect. That’s because Zimmerman’s adaptations of these ancient yarns are relentlessly focused on our shared humanity.”—Chicago Tribune
  • “I need to expand my vocabulary. I need new ways of saying a show is exceptional, unique and an example of the highest level of professionalism a theatergoer can expect to see in Kansas City—or anywhere…The playwright/director gives us a show that is visually mesmerizing, sexy, witty, outrageously comic and, at times, deeply melancholic. More than that, it’s a vivid example of what I choose to call ‘pure theater.’ It stimulates the imagination in surprising ways with the most basic of theatrical tools—human beings, a few hand props, judiciously employed musical instruments and atmospheric lighting. All theater is high-tech anymore, but this show embraces a low-tech performance aesthetic that pays big dividends…There’s much wisdom in The Arabian Nights and much humor. This is a brainy show that embraces very low comedy at times. I dare you not to laugh out loud.”—Kansas City Star
  • “Exuberant and sensual…a continually seductive swirl…She does have a sublime gift for making stories come alive on stage. And this signature work of hers plays more beautifully, passionately and humorously than ever—from the thrilling prologue, with its explosion of drumming, swiftly unfurled Persian carpets, glittering lamps and harem dancers, to its finale of exhausted storytellers rolling in tandem as they fitfully sleep and dream. And it possesses all the mystery, exoticism, energy and spiciness of a Silk Road bazaar of times past, even as its poetic meditation on things spiritual, on the psyche of despots, and on male-female tensions suggests enduring questions.”—Chicago Sun-Times
  • “Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights is like that imaginary bag. It’s crammed with stories, music, sex and pageantry…I laughed and laughed. The older women sitting next to me laughed and laughed. Their laughter made me laugh even harder, which further spurred them on, until we were all laughing so hard, the actors actually nodded to us, and this made it all the funnier…I wish theater this transporting wasn’t so rare.”—The Pitch

For information on earlier shows, please contact Voleine Amilcar.

Acclaim for our organization

Open all · Close all

About Berkeley Rep

  • “Berkeley Rep occupies two sleek, custom-built theaters. Gone are the days when actors had to dash outside and down an alley to enter on the stage’s far side. Yet under Tony Taccone, who is just its third artistic director in four decades, the company continues to pride itself on producing provocative, often overtly political theater, the kind that generates loud and clamorous debate…Berkeley Rep has a tradition of playing host to formidable talents before their big breaks, like Anna Deavere Smith, Mary Zimmerman, and Mary-Louise Parker. And it has long been a leader in producing writers of color. In recent years Mr. Taccone has put his weight behind producing another underserved group: emerging writers, including Stew, Ms. Ruhl (a recent recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant), and Jordan Harrison. Mr. Taccone’s approach—to offer emerging writers the same resources as established ones and to hold them to the same standards—has helped yield a string of hits. He is also able to offer new plays a very educated, broad-minded audience…And artists appreciate Berkeley Rep’s intimate 600- and 400-seat theatres, in which no seat is more than 49 feet from the stage…Increasingly, Berkeley Rep’s galvanizing productions have been traveling to New York. The rock musical Passing Strange, which opened on Broadway on Thursday, is the fourth show in two years with Berkeley lineage to transfer to a major New York stage…It is a striking body of work, a reminder of the importance of regional theaters as feeders to New York.”—Joy Goodwin, New York Times
  • “With a well-deserved reputation for producing a steady stream of challenging work that earned it the 1997 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater, Berkeley Rep continues to confound expectations…Founded in 1968, the Rep has grown into one heavyweight regional theater.”—Sam Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
  • “One of the more adventurous American theatrical enterprises outside of New York.”—David Littlejohn, Wall Street Journal
  • “Berkeley Rep, which won a Tony Award in 1997 for outstanding regional theater, was begun in a storefront by some university graduate students in 1968…It soon became a cultural tradition in Berkeley, with a yearly offering of seven or eight plays, a mix of classic and contemporary works…By design, it’s an eclectic and wide-ranging program.”—Bernard Weinraub, New York Times
  • “Known for stellar productions of the works of contemporary playwrights with political bents.”—Jean Schiffman, Variety
  • “In the past 10 years, Berkeley Rep has gained a national reputation as a theatre on the cutting edge of artistic expression.“—Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune
  • “One could see this string of accomplishments as inevitable, given the quality of the artists who seek out Taccone’s talent, or as the hard-earned culmination of a career as one of American theatre’s most versatile and generous collaborators.”—Ellen McLaughlin, American Theatre
  • “Berkeley Rep rules. Yeah, yeah, way to state the obvious, I know. This may be old news in these parts but the East Coast is just now catching on to the trend.”—Karen D’Souza, San Jose Mercury News
  • “It can’t be true that every old script that Berkeley Repertory Theatre touches turns to gold. It just seems that way.”—Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Examiner
  • “Let’s not quibble…Nobody’s perfect…But Berkeley Rep comes close with more consistency than any theatre in the region.”—Leo Stutzin, Modesto Bee
  • “Berkeley Rep offers visually outstanding stagings, top-notch tech, strong performances, great new scripts, and anti-war politics.”—Tom Kelly, SF Bay Times
  • “Berkeley Rep is the Bay Area’s most consistently excellent theater company.”—Judy Richter, Aisle Say
  • “Had I my druthers, every play would run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, easily the most theatregoer-friendly house in the Bay Area.”—Gerald Nachman, San Francisco Chronicle

About the Downtown Berkeley Arts District

  • “What is happening is the transformation of some forlorn streets of empty buildings and auto body shops into a potentially flourishing neighborhood anchored by a sleek new 600-seat theater that is the second stage for the 400-seat Berkeley Repertory Theatre…With the opening of the $20 million theater, which adjoins, via a courtyard, the older one, the Addison Street neighborhood is pulsing with activity…The second theater [is] the nucleus of a revitalized downtown.”—Bernard Weinraub, New York Times
  • “The new $20 million Berkeley Repertory Theatre is the anchor in downtown Berkeley’s revival.”—Kim Severson, San Francisco Chronicle
  • “It’s been a long struggle to make downtown Berkeley come alive again, and Berkeley Rep has been the driving force that has turned its block of Addison Street into an official, city-supported Downtown Arts District. That in turn has generated the growth of theater and live music attractions nearby.”—Robert Taylor, Contra Costa Times
  • “Artistic Director Tony Taccone and Managing Director Susan Medak met the challenge of creating a larger theater without sacrificing the intimacy for which Berkeley Rep is known and admired…Berkeley Rep’s two-theatre complex, along with the adjacent new Nevo Education Center, forms the lynchpin to the city’s emerging arts district.”—Belinda Taylor, Callboard
  • “Art envelops you in this town. On Addison Street, you can read poetry etched in the sidewalk, view paintings in a parking garage, catch a show at three stages run by two outstanding theater companies and hear some hot music at one of the nation’s only schools devoted entirely to jazz. And that’s just in one block.”—Sunset Magazine
  • “A world-class stage, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, brilliant acoustics and great sightlines…The new stage will help the theater operation look as brawny as its reputation. The relatively small Berkeley Rep, and its original 360-seat house, has an enormous reputation throughout the country, along with the regional Tony Award it received in 1997…The new theater will be the keystone of Berkeley’s new Addison Street Arts District, and Berkeley Rep will be a major player, not only with the two theaters, but with a new educational facility as well, located just on the other side of the existing theater.”—Pat Craig, Contra Costa Times

About the Roda Theatre

  • “The vast stage—which can be reconfigured, lighted and set in an almost infinite number of ways—is remarkably intimate. With long ranks of seats facing forward, clear sightlines and acoustics and nothing in the house to distract you, the play is definitely the thing.”—David Littlejohn, Wall Street Journal
  • “When the burgundy curtain rose, The Roda got down to business and did what it will clearly do best for years to come. The new theater became a strikingly responsive instrument, tuned to the actors and spectacle on stage. The relationship of audience to art is everything the Rep had hoped it would be…a stunningly big picture on intimate terms…Lines spoken in a husky whisper carry cleanly to the back of the house…The deep cherry-wood wall surfaces and a towering airspace crowned with lofty catwalks and exposed air ducts vanish into plush darkness when the house lights go down. The show, as it always should be, is the thing.”—Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle
  • “It’s certainly not too early to sing the praises of the newly dubbed Roda Theatre: it’s a warm, elegant, vibrant space that manages to combine scale and intimacy, featuring great acoustics and a state-of-the-art proscenium that makes some truly striking stage imagery possible. As performances spaces in the Bay Area disappear at an alarming rate, this handsome brand-new theater is little short of a miracle.”—Brad Rosenstein, SF Bay Guardian
  • “The new theater and the arts development along Addison Street signals an eastward shift in the Bay Area theater scene. The theater already had a national reputation, winning a regional Tony Award in 1997. Now it’s getting facilities to match…The new, 27,000-square-foot auditorium features state-of-the-art lighting and acoustics, great views from every seat, and a design heavy on wood-textured concrete and real wood…Berkeley Rep is the centerpiece.”—Tony Hicks, Contra Costa Times
  • “Check out the spacious yet intimate new theater and all of its bells and whistles: a 90-foot scenery storage tower, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and—something of which Berkeley Rep is extremely proud—13 stalls in the women’s room. But if you’re not a woman, please knock before going in.”—Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune
  • “The most dominant characteristic of the company’s new proscenium theater is its intimacy…its design whispers Berkeley. With an architectural flavor that at times suggests the Maybeck style—think Craftsman crossbred with Frank Lloyd Wright—the theater [has] a rawness and elegance that is undeniably East Bay.”—Mark de la Viña, San Jose Mercury News
  • “In 1968, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre occupied a simple storefront. Things have changed since then: This month, a new three-story, 600-seat theater premieres with a grand-opening dinner and a performance of The Oresteia. The addition joins an existing 401-seat facility as well as a theater school in the Nevo Education Center next door. Together, the three comprise a true performance complex on the Addison Street arts corridor in downtown Berkeley.”—Chiori Santiago, Sunset Magazine
  • “For a year and a half, the 2000 block of Addison Street has been a hive of activity, reminiscent of the bustle and community involvement that attended the construction of medieval cathedrals…Politics and enlightened citizenry can be found in the gifts that have helped make the theatre possible: $4 million from the City of Berkeley, $2 million from Ask Jeeves, Inc., and a spectacular sound system by the world-famous Berkeley-based Meyer Sound Laboratories…The ingenious design from ELS Architects keeps the audience close to the action. No seat is farther than 49 feet from the stage, and the stage itself is large, with capacious trap room below and fly room above, increasing scenic possibilities.”—Belinda Taylor, Performing Arts Magazine
  • “Yes, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be a good different. The Rep has made every effort to retain the things that matter most to its dedicated audience: intimacy, clarity, and a lack of pretension…even the cheap-ticket SRO area is going to be a better ‘seat’ than you can find in the expensive part of certain other theatres.”—Lisa Drostova, East Bay Express
  • “Indeed, the closeness of the boxes and the loge to the stage lend the intimately scaled site the feel of a European jewel box theater…The mixed elements of stone and wood evoke Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters house. The theater is masculine and majestic in its strong lines and rough textures…Entering the tech booth, there’s a feeling you’ve stepped into the cockpit of the starship Enterprise. The sleekly molded console is studded with gazillions of sliding buttons and gadgets.”—Pamela Fisher, San Francisco Examiner
  • “Berkeley Repertory Theatre has created a classic of its own: a facility capable of housing epic productions while maintaining the intimacy between actor and viewer that is live theater’s greatest reason for existence…Even viewers at the rear of the orchestra or mezzanine should be able to see every grin and grimace without resorting to binoculars: No seat is more than 49 feet from the stage…The two stages will give the company a one-two punch in theatrical flexibility.”—Leo Stutzin, Modesto Bee
  • “Berkeley Repertory Theatre has sprouted wings and Bay Area theatergoers will be uplifted as well in the sleek new theater that seats 600 but has the same intimate feel as the one next door.”—Lee Brady, Pacific Sun
  • “A lovely 600-seat proscenium theater with a huge stage opening and terrific sight lines.”—Erika Milvy, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
  • “Berkeley Rep has given the Bay Area the glorious gift of a major new theatrical venue…the expansive stage of the new Roda Theatre. The auditorium itself, a hard-edged modernist take on traditional proscenium theatres, proves a surprisingly intimate companion to such a large stage.”—Richard Dodds, Bay Area Reporter

Artists applaud Berkeley Rep

“At Berkeley Rep, I feel like a wanderer who has finally come home.”—Rita Moreno, legendary actress

“Working with Tony Taccone has been an intense, enlightening, fortifying experience…My creative partner, Steve Colman, and I have learned more about our own process through our collaborations with Tony than with anyone else. His generosity, passion, and dedication to the craft of honest expression are but a few of his many gifts. In other words, we think he kicks ass.”—Sarah Jones, Tony Award-winning solo performer

“Seeing a show at Berkeley Rep changed my life.”—Tom Hanks, Academy Award-winning actor

“Berkeley Rep was one of the first theatres in the country to do my work, ten years before it became ‘known.’ They have been big enough for experiments, but savvy enough to become a mainstay of American arts. They are the symbol of their generation: an exemplary one!”—Anna Deavere Smith, playwright, performer and MacArthur genius

“Tony [Taccone] is one of my oldest friends. We’ve done seven shows now, and I love the theatre he’s built. Any chance I get to work at Berkeley, I take it.”—Tony Kushner, Tony- and Pulitizer-winning playwright

“Berkeley Rep is a really amazing place to make art. I feel like I won the creativity and community lottery by getting to make a piece here…I would be the Berkeley Rep’s pool boy. Just to get to work here.”—Julie Wolf, composer and music director

“Rock and roll with extra hot sauce on it, baby! Che Guevera would be pleased, and he would probably be a subscriber. ¡Viva Berkeley Rep!”—Culture Clash, homegrown comedy troupe

“Berkeley was a comfort zone for us. I mean, we throw a lot of references at people—art history, literature, politics, language jokes. And we’re thinking, ‘If anybody’s going to get all this, it’s these people.’ Do you realize that there’s a homeless book club in Berkeley? If you’re going to throw a bag of cultural references at people, this is the place to do it.”—Stew, creator of Passing Strange

“I like [Taccone’s] pugnaciousness. I like that he knows what he wants to do. Any artist these days who is brave enough to stand up for what he wants to do and not buckle, that’s rarer than the ivory-billed woodpecker.”—Maurice Sendak, beloved children’s author

“Working at Berkeley Rep is like playing with the smart kids: fun, challenging, surprising and fulfilling. There is a unique alchemy of audience and artists and staff at play here, and that makes it a magnetic operation.”—Lisa Peterson, Obie Award-winning director

“It gave me the opportunity to learn my craft as an actor. How better can you do that than by working in a repertory company for 10 years?”—Joe Spano, actor and Emmy nominee

“Berkeley Rep has been a West Coast home for my work, and I can’t think of another theatre that would be daring enough to help us realize a performance that is both epic in scale and extremely intimate in scope. Audiences here have always been receptive to new work that tests conventional wisdom.”—Mike Daisey, popular solo performer

“Berkeley Rep! O lucky me! A support system for comedy!”—Geoff Hoyle, renowned clown

“Berkeley Rep is home and always new cultural territory—as an artist I’m proud to be part of its life and growth.”—Sharon Lockwood, veteran Bay Area actor

“I remember when Michael Leibert announced he was going to make a professional repertory theatre in Berkeley, all the faculty at Berkeley—we were in grad school—all the professors said, ‘That’s crazy. You’ll never pull it off.’ But Michael just kept trucking. We were just flying by the seat of our pants, so it’s nice to know that all that work built a theatre that will last forever.”—Holly Barron, leading lady from Berkeley Rep’s early days

Praise for past productions

Season 2013–14

Open all · Close all

Monsieur Chopin

  • “The acclaimed playwright-performer is back at Berkeley Rep with a one-man show devoted to Chopin…Briskly directed by Joel Zwick, Chopin blends music and anecdote, history and humor, as Felder, in character as Chopin throughout, recounts the story—or, at least, hits the highs and lows…from the Polish composer’s birth, in 1810 near Warsaw, to his death, at age 39, in Paris…Music is the constant thread, a lifelong passion that produced some of the most dazzling solo piano works ever written…When Felder turns to the piano, Monsieur Chopin is enchanting. As the evening drew to a close, Felder played the composer’s great Polonaise in A-Flat Major, bringing out the work’s Romantic sensitivity and rhythmic drive. In moments like that, genius seemed an apt description.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “The solo show-concert is in the same league, perhaps even better, than his equally beguiling, similarly formatted presentations on George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein…Felder masterfully mixes history, anecdotes and emotion throughout.”—San Francisco Examiner

Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro

  • “Plaintively framed by the song “Somewhere,” Maestro is a portrait of the successful artist who regards himself as a failure…[Felder] picks up the rhythms and inflections of a somewhat older Bernstein so smoothly that he has the audience in the palm of his hand…[and] keeps us there with a blend of biography, humor, piano virtuosity, pathos and musical appreciation…There are rich, deftly performed and resonant passages of great music—by Bernstein, Beethoven, Wagner, Copland, Grieg and more…Delightful.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Felder orchestrated a similar homage to musical genius in George Gershwin Alone last year. Now he returns to Berkeley Repertory Theatre with another charmer that tickles the ivories and the funny bone. While this piece shares many characteristics with that breezy Gershwin monologue, there’s far more dramatic heft to this one-man show…Felder crystallizes the watershed moments in the maestro’s life with poetry and sensitivity. Certainly the songs, particularly the selections from “West Side Story,” are as magical as ever.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “A tour de force that fuses speech, song and pianistic brilliance into a captivating vignette of one of the towering figures of 20th century American music…It’s also hilarious at times, and awe-inspiring in Felder’s unfolding of a compelling narrative while hitting every note of a varied, complex and difficult score.”—Huffington Post
  • “Felder reaches new depths of writing, acting and musical talents in Maestro. He displays an uncanny ability to capture Bernstein’s mercurial personality, melodious voice, scornful expression and fluid body movements, all while playing Bernstein’s own compositions as well as his favorite composers’ piano pieces.”—Berkeleyside

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide…

  • “You know you’re in the hands of Tony Kushner when the characters are wrestling with big ideas in fraught situations, the laughter is plentiful and you leave feeling smarter than you were before. Such is the case with the West Coast premiere of The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures…It’s a richly rewarding and stimulating experience.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Thrilling…His genius stems from his ability to illuminate ideas that might seem impossibly unwieldy to lesser minds…The playwright locks horns with the essential questions of class, history and politics that have always anchored his work. Only this time the narrative is an almost four-hour family drama that echoes Arthur Miller and Anton Chekhov but is uniquely Kushnerian in its marriage of poetry and politics. In its long-awaited West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep, it’s an astonishing achievement that’s as thrilling and provocative as it is challenging…As ever, Kushner leaves you with your heart in your mouth and your mind on fire—and that’s priceless.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Kushner has an ingenious collaborator in Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone…Crafting the massive ache of the play’s emotional tornado requires deftness and dexterity: Taccone has both.”—SF Weekly
  • “Director Tony Taccone manages to deliver a nearly four-hour production that is never dull (I’ve seen many shorter plays that seemed much longer) and is, by turns, exasperating, fascinating, gripping and, in moments, mind blowing. Taccone’s long relationship with Kushner stretches back to the commissioning of Angels, and it seems Taccone is exactly the right director to layer Kushner’s word- and intellect-rich script with reality and theatricality…It’s challenging and rewarding in equal measure. And it’s funny.”—Theater Dogs
  • “Berkeley Rep’s artistic director Tony Taccone’s almost 40-year history with Tony Kushner (he commissioned Kushner’s Angels in America) has led to Taccone’s expert understanding of Kushner’s works. In addition to Taccone’s talent, Kushner’s creative genius, a marvelous cast of actors, especially Mark Margolis and Deirdre Lovejoy, and an outstanding scenic design by Christopher Barreca, all combine to leave audience challenged, fascinated, excited and wanting more.”—Berkeleyside

Not a Genuine Black Man

  • “Personal, painful and often hilarious…Episodes of cruelty, humiliation, struggle and resilience punctuate the narrative, delivered most often with the innocence and bewilderment of a child, and generating laugh after laugh, before reflection…Copeland’s skill (and presumably that of collaborator/director David Ford) gives the narrative a seamless flow. It’s at once familiar and unique, funny and painful and poignant.”—Huffington Post
  • “Copeland has that special blend of comedy and drama; his show is amusing and ardent.”—SF Weekly

Tribes

  • “Sometimes it’s as hard to keep up with what’s being said as what’s being signed in Nina Raine’s Tribes, the international hit that opened Wednesday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. That’s part of the point of Raine’s funny, emotionally fraught play. Communication is a messy business at best, sometimes even more so within tribes than between them…One tribe is defined by deafness, another by academia and others simply by family. Loyalties are fierce and boundaries guarded, but less distinct than they might appear. Her central protagonist, Billy, inhabits all three tribes with varying degrees of ease in a brilliantly articulated performance by James Caverly…Caverly, a National Theatre of the Deaf actor who’s played Billy in Boston and Washington, D.C., provides a solid foundation for the story and Raine’s evocative themes. As the performers probe the ways in which we pretend to ‘hear’ less—and more—than we do, the differences between what can be expressed in speech and signs, or levels of empathetic deafness, Tribes grows more intellectually and emotionally compelling.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Immensely pleasurable…Nina Raine’s penetrating new play forces us to hear the world differently…The critically acclaimed domestic drama revolves around a deaf young man reared by a chaotically verbal family. Sensitively directed by Jonathan Moscone, the play both explores how the deaf experience of the world and suggests that all language limits our ability to communicate shades of truth…As a deconstruction of language, Tribes resonates loud and clear.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “What Billy hears and doesn’t hear, says and doesn’t say, is at the heart of the new Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Tribes. Nina Raine’s provocative and often very funny drama, vibrantly staged by director Jonathan Moscone in its regional premiere, considers what happens when Billy decides to seek a new conversation…In its exploration of what it means to connect, to be heard, to belong, Raines’ drama of speech and silence rings true.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “There is not another drama about family, about communication, about the very essence of language like Nina Raine’s Tribes. The 2010 British play now on Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Thrust Stage is among the funniest, most moving and deeply engaging shows we’re likely to see this year…Words—spoken, signed, whispered or unspoken—and emotions run deep, which is ultimately why Tribes is so powerful and its echoes reverberate long after the final scene.”—Theater Dogs
  • “If Act I is filled with tremendous humor and horribly cruel conversations that manage also to be funny, then Act II is where the comic cover is lifted and the underlying bugs are unleashed…Director Jonathan Moscone instinctively (and adeptly) steers toward the heart of this family drama. The play may be about finding one’s people, one’s tribe, but Moscone never forgets how the alchemy of human desire, thrown into the cauldron of a family, creates a volatile potion that is the play’s centerpoint.”—SF Weekly

Accidental Death of an Anarchist

  • “Breathtakingly funny…Steven Epp doesn’t tell jokes. He embodies one comic morsel after another or several on top of each other so thickly that your brain can’t possibly keep up because you’re laughing too hard. And he’s far from alone in the hilarious ensemble of the Accidental Death of an Anarchist that opened Wednesday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre…It’s a feast of foolishness…farce as a potent political act.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “The shtick hits the fan with a vengeance…Was it a suicide, an accident or a case of police brutality? The Nobel-winning Fo riffed on the incident in this laser-sharp satire on the death of civil rights, the rise of the rampant corruption and the need to overthrow the status quo…Lest we think that issues of the abuse of power and the distraction of the masses are more relevant to the past than the present, Bayes and Epp jam the revival full of timely references…its political fire is undeniable!”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “The laughs come at regular intervals in Accidental Death of an Anarchist. So do the sight gags, physical shtick, political jabs and topical references in the new Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of this sharp and very funny political farce by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo…A brilliantly calibrated staging…Act 2 hits a high note of hilarity!”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “Spectacularly hilarious…There’s no arguing about the cast’s genius at extracting laughs from bleak encounters. Its six members pull out all the stops of physical comedy: mugging, pratfalling, colliding, tripping over each other, singing, dancing and flaunting the flexibility of acrobats while propelling the story with breakneck abandon…A laugh riot!”—Huffington Post
  • “Extremely funny and incisive…As breezy, uproarious, and meaningful as a political satire can be!”—SFist

The House that will not Stand

  • “There’s nothing like a steaming pot of gumbo to spice up a play—especially the way Harriett D. Foy prepares it in the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s The House that will not Stand…Singing ingredients at her witchly cauldron in the African-derived rhythms of Creole voodoo, Foy’s household slave Makeda stirs as much gumption into the show as she does into that pot…Foy’s magnetically plainspoken and voodoo-infused Makeda is the slave of Lizan Mitchell’s elegant, peremptory Beartrice. Beartrice’s wealthy live-in lover Lazare has just died (Ray Reinhardt is a delightfully vital, opinionated corpse), and she has to secure the futures of their three ‘ripe’ teenage daughters…Sex, slavery, mothering and a clash between the new and the old are prime ingredients…multiple plot strands and rich mix of history, ghosts, gorgeous flights of rhetoric and music…vivid flights of language…razor-sharp verbal cuts…Gardley’s skill in depicting racial issues is dramatically rich…House is invigoratingly evocative.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Witty dialogue, an electric cast, and hearty servings of lust, murder, voodoo, jealousy, and intrigue in the Big Easy…a dazzling and rousing experience!”—East Bay Express
  • “In The House that will not Stand, the Oakland native unearths a slice of the rich and eccentric history of New Orleans, specifically the 19th century practice of plaçage and the prestige it gave to a class of aristocratic free women of color…Gardley’s drama transports Lorca’s classic tale The House of Bernarda Alba into the heart of Creole culture. This epic is set in 1836, not long after the city was the scene of the largest slave rebellion in American history. During this period, free black women could make common law marriages to wealthy white men. If the men died, they could even inherit grand houses and dazzling fortunes. Before the Louisiana Purchase, they were said to own most of the city…Alas, Beartrice Albans (a formidable Lizan Mitchell) has no such luck. When her man, Lazare (Ray Reinhardt), passes away, there is a white wife waiting to steal her house and the dowries—and, therefore, the futures of Beartrice’s three daughters—right out from under Beartrice…Gardley has written some dazzling bursts of bon mots with which Beartrice entrances her foes, and Mitchell wields wit like a rapier.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

Man in a Case

  • “Baryshnikov shines…Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tymberly Canale light up the stage as smitten and unlucky lovers—with more points of light than one can count—in the luminous Man in a Case that opened Sunday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. The characters are Chekhov’s. The mesmerizing Big Dance Theater blend of acting, movement, video and music is by adapter-directors Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson. There are so many elements of pure pleasure emanating from the stage that it’s hard to know where to focus one’s eyes or ears. But the heart of these poignant, remarkably uplifting tales of misplaced or thwarted love is in the multifaceted interactions between Canale and Baryshnikov.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Mikhail Baryshnikov prances away with our hearts yet again in Man in a Case. The greatest dancer of his generation is more of a thespian here than anything else but there is still a world of magic to the quality of his movement. The ballet icon’s lithe presence adds electricity to this whimsical deconstruction of two Anton Chekhov stories, “Man in a Case” and “About Love.” Cheekily adapted by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of the New York-based Big Dance Theater, this delicate 75-minute gem marries the edge of experimental theater with the melancholy of the Chekhovian impulse.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “A small play with a huge heart…Any tale of love by Anton Chekhov is bound to be a sad tale—put two together and the shapes of sadness multiply. Adapt them for the stage and present them with grace, invention and deep humanity, as Mikhail Baryshnikov and a small company of actor-dancers are doing in Man in a Case, and sadness assumes an unusually compelling allure.”—Huffington Post

Tristan & Yseult

  • “An age-old tragic love triangle is made fresh and enchantingly vital in the Tristan & Yseult that opened Tuesday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. It’s also filled with all the remarkably inventive, eye-catching theatricality we’ve come to expect from England’s Kneehigh company, not to mention freewheeling comedy…Another great gift from the imaginative adapter-director Emma Rice and Kneehigh…Much of the tale is a raucous, bawdy adventure in the Cornish Wild West…Passion erupts gloriously…There are puppets. There are bits of sing-along and other audience participation. Often, Tristan is as immersive as a very enjoyable party. But it’s also a tale very smartly told…A gem!”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Wildly exciting…This is one of those rare shows that not only satisfies any possible theatrical demands, but has you grinning like an idiot and occasionally on the verge of tears, all in two hours…There are no particular rules in this world that marries comedy, theater, acrobatics, live music and—in the case of Tristan—an ancient story of star-crossed lovers…We’ve seen this sort of story a million times. But here, it is only the beginning of the show. It is embellished, decorated, gilded, wallpapered, flashed back, filled with a joyous array of music, sung, danced and basically dolled up as your ticket to a first-class flight of fancy!”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Kneehigh isn’t interested in you merely enjoying the show—although it succeeds swimmingly there as well—but in thoroughly enveloping you in its weird and wonderful world. To that effect, Tristan & Yseult is the vehicle for that transformation, and it is entertainment at its best and brightest…Tristan & Yseult creates a collision of spectacle storytelling, circus, music, dance, and comedy to delight and challenge our conception of what ‘theater’ can be. The result is as jubilant and fun as it is moving and heartfelt…Do yourself a favor and go see it.”—East Bay Express
  • “There are only so many love stories—love gained, love lost, love unrequited—and so many variations. How, then, do you make the story fresh? How do you reignite the passions and make your audience feel it all anew? The shortest answer to that query is: let Kneehigh tell the story…A landmark show…In addition to the acrobatics and some fun dancing, Kneehigh’s bag of tricks includes some spectacular music, most of it live…There’s much to love in Tristan & Yseult, and the performances are full of surprises and depth.”—Theater Dogs

The Pianist of Willesden Lane

  • “An astonishing tour de force…Mona Golabek doesn’t just tell a great story. Seated at a concert grand, she accompanies her tale with music that infuses, illustrates, amplifies and elevates The Pianist of Willesden Lane to make the personal universal and another generation so personal that you can’t help but feel your heart swell in response. Great music can do that. Skillfully blended with an affecting tale, it can do even more. If there was a dry eye in the house at Wednesday’s Berkeley Repertory Theatre opening, my own were too filled with tears to see it…The first movement—brilliantly, probingly performed by Golabek—sets up the fraught conditions in 1938 Vienna. The second intensifies the dramatic perils of the Blitz. The third brings the piece to its passionate resolution…Stunningly good.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Deeply moving…Pianist strikes a deep chord in its audience because it uses the power of music to reveal the fragility of humanity. Based on a book by Golabek and Lee Cohen, it’s a deeply moving elegy for a family struggling to hold onto what they value amid the chaos of war…There’s no denying the intensity of her narrative, the ache of her family legacy. To be sure, she’s got an endearing, matter-of-fact air that belies the tragedy of her tale. And her mastery as a musician lends to the emotional ferocity of the play, its depth and sweep. As she sits at the Steinway, communing with the mysteries of Bach and Debussy, history turns into a symphony.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Remarkable…What makes it so powerful as a theater piece is the music in combination with the story. Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor features prominently in this tale, but we also hear some Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Bach and even a little Gershwin, among others. The music is infused with emotion generated by the story itself but also by the act of Golabek reaching through history and her family tree to connect, musically, with her mother and grandmother and their powerful stories.”—Theater Dogs

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

  • San Francisco Chronicle feature
  • “Misery loves comedy…Nobody can make misery funnier than comic treasure Sharon Lockwood. As Sonia, the spinster left behind to care for dying parents at the rural homestead, Lockwood shares every momentary grievance, lifelong resentment and gloomy expectation with sidesplitting earnestness. She’s even funnier when she stops kvetching, breaking an enforced silence with a sigh. She’s perfectly matched in Richard E.T. White’s effortlessly charming production by Anthony Fusco and Lorri Holt as her siblings—adoptive, as everyone points out—Vanya and Masha. The names aren’t the only things Durang’s borrowed from Chekhov. Personalities, situations, plot developments, lines and themes derive from a bountiful mash-up of Chekhov’s four major plays with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Ingmar Bergman, the Beatles, Old Yeller, the Oresteia and Maggie Smith thrown in…Hilarious!”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Smartly directed by Richard E.T. White, this outrageous romp is a hoot and half…Christopher Durang’s madcap fantasia on Russian themes is so over the top that it’s inside out…The playwright, famed for his flair with farce from The Marriage of Bette and Boo to Beyond Therapy, packs the uber-absurd plot with so many belly laughs that the wistfulness at the core of the hijinks is all the more poignant…The sincerity of Durang’s fondness for his eccentric characters and the honesty of his discontent with the ‘now’ lends the otherwise goofy plot a sense of gravity. Global warming, short attention spans and the tyranny of pop culture all come under fire as these quirky characters ponder what the future holds, not just for themselves, but for a civilization uncertain how to reinvent itself in the face of cataclysmic change.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Roars from start to finish…The production boasts performances that play ridiculousness to the hilt and performers who seem to revel in every moment of it…Despite the excesses, the three central figures in the six-character play rise above mere caricature. Beneath all the fun and frolic, they’re capable of redemption and affection, as Chekhov’s people were. And the other three deliver a superabundance of silliness through speech, movement and mugging…It’s a wonderful start to the season.”—Huffington Post
  • “Durang shows us just how funny unhappiness can be. Directed by Richard E.T. White, a top-notch cast assumes characters of Chekhovian proportions to take a freewheeling ride through contemporary angst…White’s well-timed production reaches its comic zenith as the characters dress for a neighbor’s costume party. But the director keeps the laughs coming throughout.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “The entire cast is a delight, but there’s special pleasure in watching Fusco and Lockwood and Holt bring their unique talents to bear in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a zany family comedy with the zing of sparkling wine and, thanks to marvelous actors, the occasional tang of real champagne.”—Theater Dogs

No Man’s Land

  • “Listening to Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart state, bandy and insinuate the language of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land is like hearing master cellists perform a Bach cantata. Watching them inhabit the silences eloquently elaborates the comedy and treacherous drama. With Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley in the supporting roles, the veritable all-star production that opened Sunday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre is a master class in Pinter performance. And a very enjoyable one at that…Director Sean Mathias, who also staged McKellen and Stewart’s highly praised Godot in London, orchestrates the action with a delicate touch and a fine eye for sly physical comedy…Stooped, careworn and uncomfortably conscious of his epically rumpled gray suit—with white shoes and socks—McKellen is almost unrecognizable from previous roles. His walk is a vivid combination of a shamble and the body’s ill-remembered impression of a light step…Stewart is every bit as impressive, whether sitting stolidly in his armchair, anticipating his next drink or gingerly placing a foot to balance his unsteady walk to the liquor cabinet…Crudup and Hensley add the expected undercurrent of unstated, smiling menace; and each excels in his own arias and physical bits…Pinter’s themes of unreliable memory, inherent loneliness and evasive truths revolve within the repeating circles of Stephen Brimson Lewis’ imposingly grand, spare, curved set. But these four actors make the immersion in Pinteresque futility memorable and edgily joyous.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Feels like a gift from theater gods…Directed by the estimable Sean Mathias, this is a rich symphony in Pinter played by two virtuosos of the theater…Our guides on this voyage into the void are Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, two peerless interpreters of Pinter’s infamous ambiguity…Both McKellen and Stewart parse the text with equal portions gravitas and grace. The enigmas are as sly as ever but each moment also feels grounded in an achingly real sense of truth and humor…Mathias keeps the audience on tenterhooks as the actors nimbly navigate the play’s sharp switchbacks in tone and subtext…There’s no denying the power of this eerie narrative to haunt the imagination…From the first night cap to the last toast, this is a booze-soaked aria in pauses that speak volumes and stares that will stop your heart…Exquisite!”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and No Man’s Land are a brilliant match. In the new revival of Harold Pinter’s play at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the legendary actors give a thrilling master class in the existential drama and mordant humor battling for supremacy in this groundbreaking 20th century work…This New York-bound production, deftly directed by Sean Mathias and buoyed by the considerable star power of its two leading men, casts a mesmerizing spell.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “What pure theatrical pleasure it is to spend two hours in the baffling world of playwright Harold Pinter with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart as our guides. These two fascinating craftsmen, under the direction of the equally astute Sean Mathias, are a show unto themselves in the choices they make, the characters they draw and the relationships they forge with each other and with the audience. No Man’s Land may be about some sort of limbo between the vibrancy of youth and the incapacity of old age (or, more simply, between living life and just waiting for death), but in truth, it’s a masterful workshop in which gifted thespians practice their craft.”—Theater Dogs

Season 2012–13

Open all · Close all

George Gershwin Alone

  • Interview on KPFA-FM
  • “Simply glorious…The incomparable genius of George Gershwin lights up Berkeley Rep…Felder’s show, which he’s been touring internationally since 2000—including Broadway and West End runs—is a cavalcade of immortal standards: “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” not to mention selections from Porgy and Bess, An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue…Felder is a terrific musician. His fingers fly over the keys with pinpoint precision and Gershwin-like dynamism…He enriches the presentation with enlightening musicology material as well…A delight from beginning to end.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “A heartfelt valentine to the American songbook that goes down as smoothly as a bourbon Manhattan with a bright red cherry on top. As a tuneful antidote to a weary world, George Gershwin Alone…is pretty darn close to s’wonderful…The mind-boggling depth and breadth of Gershwin’s catalog is reverently showcased here. Buoyantly directed by Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Gershwin zips along from the composer’s salad days to his biggest triumphs…He’s got rhythm, and he’s got music as he channels the genius of Gershwin for almost two hours. Who could ask for anything more?”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

Dear Elizabeth

  • San Francisco Chronicle feature
  • Interview on Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf
  • “Watching poets, even eminent poets, read and write to each other shouldn’t be half as gripping as playwright Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters make it in Dear Elizabeth…with more intellectual, artistic and emotional vigor than might be expected in any epistolary drama. It’s her artful selection from the letters and poems, combined with Waters’ inventive stagings, that makes the words take flight. It’s a treat simply to have Ruhl and Waters…working together again at the Rep, home of his memorable stagings of her Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). The West Coast premiere…works best when their collaborative efforts make the complicated, distant relationship between the poets come alive in the imagery they use and details from their lives. Annie Smart’s elongated room of a set transforms itself from academic haunts to domestic study or Library of Congress. Then it exerts sheer magic, as she and Waters bring poetic metaphors to life in remarkable stage effects—the most exciting of which elaborates on a similar effect in Eurydice.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Certainly Ruhl’s gentle treatment of the poems, the way she finds the breathing space between life and art, can’t be overpraised. She crystallizes the magic of what is left unsaid and the piercing intimacy of regret in one beguiling passage after another. The playwright and director live up to their reputation for plumbing the unspoken in quiet moments filled with yearning…At its best, the play captures both the enchantment of poetry and the alienation of reality in equal measure…Ruhl and Waters have an affinity for stage pictures that radiate quiet longing (Eurydice, Three Sisters) and never is this quality more apparent than in the elegiac Dear Elizabeth…Nelis nails Lowell’s charmingly rumpled attempts at wooing but also his volatility…Fisher speaks volumes with Bishop’s wry looks of appraisal and the way she scrambles for the bottle of hooch hidden in the bookshelves. These two gifted actors sweep us away in the tide of time as youth slips away and mortality casts its long shadow. The vulnerability of the performances is startling.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Waters and Ruhl could easily have sat their poets at a table (Love Letters style) and had them read. But there’s a lot more to this production, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect of the dynamic Waters–Ruhl pairing we’ve seen at Berkeley Rep in Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). In two acts and running just under two hours, we are treated to a sort of visual poetry from Annie Smart’s surprise-laden set washed with color and mood by Russell Champa’s gorgeous lights…a placid piece of theater, filled with lovely, lively writing and gorgeous images…Fisher and Nelis have warm chemistry with one another, and Fisher especially conveys the tremendous intelligence and complex emotional life of Bishop with an understated but heartfelt performance.”—Theater Dogs
  • “Leave it to playwright Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room (the Vibrator Play), Dead Man’s Cell Phone) to dust off the genre and present it with fresh, articulate power in the form of Dear Elizabeth…she and director Les Waters have crafted a piece of theater in which we are allowed to see and hear each character’s yearnings, joys, and sorrows, and occasionally watch them touch each other beyond space and time, between letters…[A] powerful piece that would appeal to any romantic who’s shed a tear over someone who got away.”—SFist
  • “The poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell have never sounded so fresh and beautiful. But it’s their letters that dazzle in Dear Elizabeth…Those who come to Dear Elizabeth expecting a dry and dusty recounting of literary history may be surprised at the yearning and intensity of the lives of these poets.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “The core of [Dear Elizabeth], the correspondence itself, is handled remarkably well. Ruhl weaves the letters together so they play like a conversation…It’s a touching portrait of a friendship between two delightfully clever people that’s as intriguing for what it leaves out as for what it tells…it’s sure to be of interest to American poetry buffs.”—KQED Arts & Culture

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

  • “It’s a picaresque romp full of multiethnic humor, close calls and sentimentality, with a veritable deus ex machina—the old hoist carrying a goddess—and one of the most joyous, bounciest sex scenes ever staged…Inventive director Mark Wing-Davey throws so many ideas at the old play—in performance styles, musical interventions, pop culture references, actors wearing paper plates for masks—that at times it seems like a cartoon or even a lampoon. But when all the trials and tribulations get resolved in the long-expected happy ending, don’t be surprised if you feel tears well up in your eyes…They succeed in showing why Pericles was the biggest hit of 1608 and has regained so much popularity in recent decades…It works…The cast brings it to life, headed by Anita Carey…and David Barlow as an engagingly noble, kind and dangerously innocent Pericles…Jessica Kitchens is a radiant delight as a blithely evil queen, with a drunk scene out of 1940s Hollywood, and Pericles’ girlishly earthy true love Thaïsa. James Carpenter shines—literally, in a Gustav Klimt-like reflective robe—as one evil king and again as Thaïsa’s hearty royal father. Annapurna Sriram is a feisty, earnest Marina and the long-lost daughter, and is captivating in other roles…A shape-shifting Rami Margron, sharp Evan Zes and James Patrick Nelson fill out a wild variety of parts—including a pirate crew, brothel and tournament full of knights—aided by the extra heads and eclecticism of Meg Neville’s imaginative costumes.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Insanely inventive…A rough and tumble theatrical playground where anything goes. Starting with an interactive sing-along and chockablock with pop culture references from Batman to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this is a wild and woolly Bard mashup…Certainly, Wing-Davey—the Obie-winning director (36 Views, Angels in America)—lives up to his reputation for being insanely inventive…He’s overstuffed the epic with cheeky allusions and bravura bits of stagecraft…Make no mistake, there are many lovely moments…When Pericles changes his baby’s diaper and hands her over to another’s care or when Dionyza (Jessica Kitchens), ruler of Tarsus, bemoans the starvation of her people, the intimacy of the piece hits home. Suddenly it’s clear that Pericles’ fantastical journey is a metaphor for all of our lives, the way we each brave the elements of loss, aging and death.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Captivating…This production has some dazzle and some heft and definitely some humor…The actors hurtle through the various episodes with verve. They bring a zesty humor to the proceedings, which range from the truly lovely…to the ribald…to the just plain goofy.”—Theater Dogs

Fallaci

  • New Yorker cartoon
  • Interview on NPR’s Forum
  • San Francisco Chronicle feature
  • Interview on KPFA-FM
  • San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group feature
  • SF Weekly feature
  • San Francisco magazine feature
  • North Bay Bohemian feature
  • “Fascinating…Compelling…The subject is Oriana Fallaci, whose confrontational interviews made her the most famous—and, in many ways, influential—journalists of her era. The playwright is a longtime, award-winning staff writer for The New Yorker and author of eight books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower (about radical Islam) and the much-in-the-news Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. He’s also no stranger to drama; Wright has written four other plays, two of them solos that he’s performed. He’s set up this play, not surprisingly given the topic, as an interview…a verbal tango sharply and often seductively executed by Tomei and Neshat…It’s a good format for exploring Fallaci’s personal life—from teenage World War II anti-Fascist resistance fighter alongside her father, on through her prejudices and early celebrity as a dogged war correspondent—and for highlighting some of her most famous interviews (Fidel Castro, Henry Kissinger, Moammar Khadafy et al)…The fascination of watching Maryam become a mirror and reverse image of her subject is reflected in our sense that she reflects Wright’s relationship to Fallaci as well.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Fascinating…Provocative…Oriana Fallaci basks in the limelight once more in the new play Fallaci, now in its world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The iconic journalist was no stranger to the realm of the celebrity…Hailed as a fearless and combative interviewer, she never deferred to authority. If a politician was foolish enough to try and pass off a lie to her, she reveled in their destruction. She coaxed them into admitting things they would later regret and influenced the course of world events. Tomei (TV’s China Beach and Providence) nails that regal air of courage and entitlement, the way Fallaci ‘leaned in’ to her skyrocketing journalism career. Certainly she earned her reputation for heroism covering wars across the globe…Toward the end of her life, she stirred up controversy for her denunciations of Islam. In Wright’s two-hander, those views break the heart of cub reporter Maryam (Marjan Neshat) who had idolized Fallaci from afar. When she finally meets her hero up close, she realizes that world leaders are not the only ones with feet of clay…As astutely portrayed by the formidable Concetta Tomei, Fallaci comes across as half warrior, half diva.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Gripping…Fallaci fascinates at Berkeley Rep…Oriana Fallaci was a fascinating, riveting person in real life, a crusading, eviscerating journalist whose intensity often made her part of the story. In journalist and playwright Lawrence Wright’s world-premeire play Fallaci at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Fallaci lives again, and true to form, she’s a compelling personality whose intelligence, drive and complicated emotional life provide an abundance of drama. As played by Concetta Tomei, Fallaci may be dealing with illness by shutting herself into her New York apartment, but she’s still ferocious and prickly. When a young journalist from the New York Times wheedles her way into Fallaci’s apartment to snag an interview with the reclusive writer, Fallaci reluctantly warms to the reporter as an audience for her vehemence, her humor and her wisdom.”—Theater Dogs

Troublemaker…

  • NPR interview with Dan LeFranc
  • San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group interview with Dan LeFranc
  • San Francisco Chronicle interview with Lila Neugebauer
  • San Francisco Chronicle interview with Dan LeFranc
  • Bay Area News Group interview with Danny Scheie
  • North Bay Bohemian interview with Dan LeFranc
  • Triviana interview with Dan LeFranc
  • “A wild ride…as fantastical as a superhero comic book, and thrice as funny…The actors’ dexterity with LeFranc’s wildly imaginative tween expletives is as essential to the story’s success as Paloma Young’s hilarious zombie-pirate and other fantasy costumes. Neugebauer’s clever use of Kris Stone’s deceptively simple, urban-dreary set evokes the restless pace of young minds…The inventiveness of LeFranc’s superhero fantasies are enhanced by the solid emotional grounding he achieves.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Wildly fun…The playwright has created a juicy new lexicon for the digital generation that hints at obscenity without actually being vulgar. Only the adults, the arch-villains in this universe, are left speaking everyday English, which comes off as quite dreary and mundane in comparison. Steeped in the kick-ass aesthetic of video games and comic books, the action barrels along at warp-speed for three utterly outrageous acts. Our backpack-toting, hoodie-clad hero Bradley battles zombies, pirates, Nazis, bullies and his mom (a moving turn by Jennifer Regan) in a zany coming of age saga that takes place in the ‘nineteen-mighties,’ a mashup of the ‘80s, ‘90s and aughts.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Hysterical…Berkeley Rep’s Troublemaker Is a Rock-‘Em, Sock-‘Em Riot…It’s the first show to hit the main stage from the Rep’s new play development lab, The Ground Floor, which kicked off last year with a bustling summer residency. Director Lila Neugebauer’s beautifully paced staging makes the play’s two and a half hours (with two intermissions) seem to fly by…LeFranc’s dialogue is the star attraction. It’s crisp, inventive and often hilarious, mixing adventure-serial bombast (‘Give this little Ms. Pac-Man the concussion of his tweens’) with quirky catchphrases and near-constant euphemistic expletives (‘funny as farts but loyal as freak’). Troublemaker’s fabulously flashy exterior invites comparisons to the comic book and movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but at root it’s a bittersweet story about growing up and getting by at one of life’s hardest ages, when just getting through the school day takes heroic fortitude.”—KQED Arts & Culture
  • “Loads of fun…Berkeley Rep’s Troublemaker is freakin A for awesome…LeFranc has a fresh voice, and director Lila Nuegebauer gets fully committed, adrenaline-fueled performances from her cast…Troublemaker is an exhilarating new play not just for its inventive language and extraordinary energy but also for how compassionate LeFranc is toward the emotional lives of kids who are too often dismissed as old enough to know better but too young to really matter.”—Theater Dogs

The White Snake

  • San Francisco Chronicle feature
  • Napa Valley Register feature
  • Stark Insider feature
  • Feature (in Chinese) in the World Journal
  • NPR interview with Mary Zimmerman
  • KPFA interview with Mary Zimmerman
  • “Fabulous…Enchanting…A buoyant Armageddon of human and puppet actions…The White Snake has been transformed from evil, man-eating demon to tragic romantic heroine, a history slyly invoked by Zimmerman at every ‘fork’ (get it?) in her tale…Wondrous puppetry delights the eye, the ink clouds of Shawn Sagady’s projections dissolve into Chinese landscapes and Daniel Ostling’s set sprouts cabinets that may open to reveal a boudoir or something more startling.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Intoxicating…Mary Zimmerman has long been a theatrical wizard…In The White Snake, which runs through Dec. 23 at Berkeley Rep, she dazzles with a shimmering spectacle about two snakes who dare to cross over into the human world. The seventh Zimmerman creation to play Berkeley Rep, it’s the ideal holiday fare, gorgeously-appointed and whimsical but also quite meaningful…There’s not a moment in this 100-minute visual feast when the eye isn’t entranced and the heart touched…While there’s no denying the ravishing physical beauty of any Zimmeran work, the real pleasure lies in hearing the echo of the ancient in our own lives.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Wonderful…an epic adventure and an intimate love story…Fall in love with the stunning serpents at the heart of Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake, a poignant, colorful tale from ancient China that arrives at Berkeley Repertory Theatre like a giant holiday gift just waiting to be unwrapped and savored by audiences. This is Zimmerman’s seventh show at Berkeley Rep, following in the wake of such stunners as Metamorphoses, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci and, most recently,The Arabian Nights. Like these previous outings, The White Snake is theatrical storytelling at its very best, a fusion of stunning imagery, captivating music and, best of all, characters whose stories cut straight to the heart…It’s all just gorgeous and beautiful and utterly enchanting.”—Theater Dogs

An Iliad

  • San Francisco Chronicle interview with Lisa Peterson
  • Theatre Bay Area feature
  • KPFA-FM interview with Julie McCormick
  • “Absolutely riveting…Henry Woronicz gives a tour de force performance as he holds the stage almost alone for 100 uninterrupted minutes. He embodies the Trojan War, from the horrors of hand-to-hand carnage to the serenity of a pastoral lull, his body seeming to swell into the great warrior Achilles or coil into a seductive Helen of Troy…Woronicz slips easily from warrior bravado into the loving protectiveness of Hector’s wife Andromache and the heartbreaking grief of his aged father…He’s mesmerizing from the moment we first see him.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Mesmerizing…An Iliad is nothing less than breathtaking…Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s startling and visceral adaptation of Homer’s epic poem condenses the odyssey of the Trojan War into an explosive one-man show…Henry Woronicz, former head of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, delivers a spellbinding performance…He tells the tale with such clarity that arcane plot twists seem as relevant as reports from the frontlines in Afghanistan.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Devastating…An Iliad, the mesmerizing theater piece that opened Wednesday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, manages to create the sights and sounds, the epic sweep and tragic immediacy of the Trojan War in the performance of a single actor…In rich language—and pointed asides—he makes us feel each clanging sword, each fatal wound, each cry of pain from the vanquished. Peterson stages the action brilliantly.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “Impressive…A master class in oration, and in classical storytelling, it works marvelously…Woronicz does a fantastic, laudatory job of taking on this play, which is as much endurance test as it is proving ground for an aging actors’ skill at holding an audience’s attention…A welcome respite from and accompaniment to Woronicz’s lone figure on stage is a bassist, Brian Ellington, who occupies a perch above the stage and provides a soundtrack to the war and the moments of intimacy in the tale.”—SFist

Chinglish

  • Feature in the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Feature in the San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • Another feature in the San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group on the show’s Hong Kong run
  • Interview on NPR
  • Feature from KDFC-FM
  • Feature (in Chinese) in the World Journal
  • News report from KTSF-TV: Chinese / English
  • Another video (in Chinese) from KTSF-TV
  • Newspaper story (in Chinese) from Sing Tao
  • Playbill story
  • Feature in San Francisco Magazine
  • “笑聲不斷”—World Journal
  • “Hilarious…a near-perfect production…Moggridge is a charmingly earnest innocent abroad, with some dark secrets in his past. Krusiec is a magnetically evolving revelation as Xi Yan, a cold negotiator, erotic lover and personification of her own moral code. Hwang, a past master of exploring the East-West culture clash—in such gems as M. Butterfly, FOB and Trying to Find Chinatown—has written a rich new chapter for a new world order with Chinglish…It’s a tale crisply and handsomely told.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Hilarious…It is probably the funniest show ever to cross Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre and could well be the funniest show the company has ever produced. While director Leigh Silverman delivers Hwang’s script at a slapstick pace, the comedy is sharp and intelligent, with Hwang playing with words in English and Chinese like a jazz musician plays with the notes…Everything in this comedy moves like clockwork, especially the mind-bending set by David Korins. It is a hugely inventive series of turntables that shuffles a meeting room, hotel room, a restaurant and hotel lobby around in something of a theatrical perpetual motion machine, gliding effortlessly—sometimes offering just a fleeting glance at characters before shifting to a different locale. As for the actors, they are all playing at the top of their game—not only the principals, who are astounding, but also the performers in the smallest roles. It seems each is making remarkable comic decisions to give the entire show a sense of being polished to near perfection.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
  • “Irresistible…a sublime comic performance…Leigh Silverman’s smart, stylish staging launches the company’s 2012-13 season on a hilarious high…Silverman’s production is note-perfect, with the designs—David Korins’ ingenious Chinese puzzle of a set, Brian MacDevitt’s punchy lights, Anita Yavich’s witty costumes and Darron L. West’s atmospheric sound—a constant delight. Hwang understands both cultures well enough to make the story resonate, and his use of mistranslation earns waves of laughter. But there’s something poignant about the way the play looks at language. It’s there in every awkward exchange between Daniel and Xi—all human communication is flawed, Hwang suggests, and that makes Chinglish a timeless play, not just a contemporary one.”—San Francisco Examiner
  • “Crackling comic energy…full of punches and tickles and provocations…Let there be no miscommunication here: Chinglish speaks the language of laughs, and that translates into a disarmingly delightful evening of theater…The laughs flow constantly, and the performances seem effortless, even as they straddle two very different worlds and languages. Set designer David Korins, re-creating the look of last fall’s Broadway production, deserves abundant credit for keeping things moving—literally. His set rotates and slides and moves with amazing efficiency as action shifts from an office to a restaurant to a hotel lobby to a hotel room. The set changes are thrilling to watch, especially when they’re injected with flashes of humor or action (just watch as characters navigate the giant moving pieces of the set, shifting from one location to another as if walking through real-world spaces). The set’s machinations might be too much if the actors weren’t so fantastic.”—Theater Dogs

For information on earlier shows, please contact Voleine Amilcar.