As acclaimed as he is for original works such as Shotgun Players’ The Death of Meyerhold and The Forest War, what’s particularly fascinating about local writer-director Mark Jackson’s work is his treatment of classic texts, from inventive stagings of Shakespeare’s Macbeth for Shotgun and Strindberg’s Miss Julie at Aurora to dizzying choreography-oriented desconstructions such as Juliet at San Francisco State and his Three Sisters riff Yes, Yes to Moscow at the San Francisco International Arts Festival. Somewhere in between are his adaptations, which bear the unmistakable mark of his strong visual and highly stylized approach while remaining much more of a conversation with the original work than a reinvention of it.
THEATER REVIEW: BERKELEY
Show #93: The Salt Plays, Part One: In the Wound, Shotgun Players, September 11.
The Norman Conquests isn’t your standard trilogy. The plays in Alan Ayckbourn’s comedic 1973 triptych don’t happen one after another but all at more or less the same time with the same characters in different areas of the same house: Round and Round the Garden in the garden, Table Manners in the dining room, and Living Together in the living room. Ackbourn crafted them in a rotating fashion, writing the first scene of the first play, then the first scene of the second play, then the first scene of the third, before proceeding to the second scene of the first play, and round and round between the three plays until they were all finished. That’s more or less how the action plays out, too. Some events in any two plays are clearly happening simultaneously, while other scenes fill in the gaps of time the other plays skip over. The idea is that you can see them in any order, and that’s more or less true. (I wouldn’t recommend starting off with Living Together, but more on that later.)
Show #73: Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker, San Francisco Mime Troupe, July 4.
Aurora’s first main stage production to come out of its annual Global Age Project new works series, Joel Drake Johnson’s The First Grade isn’t at all what the title or the set might lead one to expect. Nina Ball’s scenic design is themed around a first grade classroom, with a hand-printed alphabet banner, inspirational posters on the wall and lockers that look drawn in crayon or chalk. Wall panels rotate to form a kitchen interior or the exterior of a house.