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Berkeley Rep

Let Me Down Easy at Berkeley Rep

Written and acted by the incomparable Anna Deavere Smith, Let Me Down Easy is an exquisite show about the human body - the feats it can endure and the ways it breaks down. 

If you’re prone to inhaling episodes of The West Wing, you probably recognize Smith, but she’s also a big darn theater deal. An unparalleled performer, Obie award-winner, and finalist for the Pulitzer, Smith trained locally, receiving her MFA at American Conservatory Theatre and working with Berkeley Rep in the early days. 

Arabian Nights Returns to Berkeley Rep

Last time Arabian Nights appeared on Berkeley Rep’s stage, it scored more critical acclaim than the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or Jesus on Easter - as well as nightly standing ovations with various forms of enthusiastic whooping. So Berkeley Rep wisely resurrected this gorgeous piece of theater for a limited run. With Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman at the helm, Arabian Nights is the infamous tale of a bride who spins a provocative web of genies, jesters, thieves and kings in hopes of saving her life.

Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead

Suspects in the murder of one decomposing composer are the clarinet (“everyone knows reed instruments are sneaky”), the bass (“tired of playing the boring parts”), and the flute (“angry about having to act like birds.”) Responsible for seeing justice done is one hook-nosed inspector with a notebook and an unfortunate proclivity for accidentally snapping off the corpse’s left hand.

Better known as Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler is an irreverent Bay Area celebrity whose delightfully wrong sense of humor makes him entirely capable of writing a children’s story about a dead body. The dead body in question is the titular composer, a master of classical music now good only for rat food.

Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep (Minus the Girl)

Young love is hard enough without being a gay teenager in Nebraska. But Will and Mike translate the standard boy-meets-girl-and-makes-her-a-mixtape story into something far sweeter. Girlfriend - Berkeley Rep's latest world premiere - blends Matthew Sweet's music into a fresh story about two boys who graduate from high school into a summer of newly-mown grass, drive-in movies, and bottles of rose pulled from the nightstand.

Tony Kushner's 'Tiny Kushner' -- Too Tiny And Yet Not Tiny Enough

Compared to Tony Kushner’s two-part, 7 hour long opus, “Angels in America”, “Tiny Kushner” – at 2 hours and 20 minutes, is tiny indeed. But not tiny enough.

Angels, a (true) work of staggering genius, is not one minute too long. The new evening of five one-acts (which opened on Wednesday at Berkeley Rep.) is about three acts too long.

For Kushner-philes, these new works offer yet five more glimpses into the mind and preoccupations of a still living genius. Period.

As Laramie is Revisited, Hate Crimes Bill Passes House

Several days before the 11th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, the US House of Representatives has voted to expand the definition of hate crimes to include crimes committed against gay men and lesbians.

The new measure, The Times reported this morning, was approved by the House right before a weekend when gay rights will be a focus in Washington, with a march to the Capitol and a speech by President Obama to the Human Rights Campaign.

Laramie Revisited

10 years ago, a  bunch of New York theater folk went to Laramie, Wyoming to talk to the people about the death of Matthew Shepard.

“The Laramie Project,” Moises Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project’s documentary drama, was the result of  200 interviews with Laramie residents in the year that followed the murder. In 1998, Matthew Shepard, the 97 pound, 21-year-old gay college student was beaten and tied to a buck-rail fence and left to die.

"American Idiot" is Gorgeous Rock, Not Plot

Berkeley Rep’s Green Day rock-opera “American Idiot”- which world premiered last night at Berkeley Rep - is a hugely ambitious project that bombards with sound, vision and thrashing emotion. It looks, smells and sounds like teen spirit.

The plot takes a familiar path that goes like this: the anti-hero leaves home, lives in squalor, becomes disillusioned, rocks, rages against the machine, takes drugs, angsts more, rocks more and does more drugs.  The end point is either death or redemption. And that's pretty much it.

Green Day's American Idiot, The Musical at Berkely Rep

Adding melody to substance can be a risky business. And next week, Berkeley Rep will try it with Green Day’s “American Idiot– the theatrical afterthought to the band’s Grammy winning multi-platinum rock album.

The musical, which features an onstage band and includes every song from the album as well as several songs from Green Day’s new CD, “21st Century Breakdown”, is directed by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening).

Berkeley Rep's You, Nero: I Came, I Saw, I Did a Little Dance, Made a Little Love (While Rome Burned)

Was it a coincidence that Berkeley Rep’s “You, Nero” premiered on the same night that American Idol reached its frenzied pitch season finale?

While Kris Allen wowed the crowd and Dick Cheney insisted that America is above the law, Danny Scheie wowed his theater audience as the Roman emperor Nero, who stages a high voltage arena-rock concert to distract the masses from his personal conviction that he, Nero, is above the law.

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