Oh That Norman

Oh That Norman

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.)

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Mourning Sickness

Mourning Sickness

God’s Ear is a curious concoction. The 2007 play by New York writer Jenny Schwartz is now at Berkeley’s Ashby Stage in a lively staging by dance theater artist Erika Chong Shuch. The plot, such as it is, would make you think it’s an examination of grief, but really it’s much more an examination of language—the triteness and insufficiency of it, the way it often feels like it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you say something.

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Tragedy, a Comedy

Tragedy, a Comedy

For some reason Berkeley’s getting its fill of Anton Chekhov adaptations lately.  Last month Central Works did its own stage version of Chekhov’s novella An Anonymous Story, and Berkeley Rep just announced its next season including the West Coast premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s new Three Sisters translation next spring. Right now Shotgun Players is doing the West Coast premiere of another adaptation of a different classic Chekhov play: Emily Mann’s update of The Seagull called A Seagull in the Hamptons, which debuted in 2008 at McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey, where Mann is artistic director and has adapted other Chekhov plays in the past.

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Old Year, New Blog

Old Year, New Blog

Top Ten Theater Productions of 2009

Although I started 2009 reviewing theater for one paper and ended the year reviewing for another, when I look over the list of the 108 shows I saw over the course of the year to determine my top ten, I realize that none of my favorite shows are ones that I actually reviewed. Those respective papers have space, money and geographical constraints, and it just happened that there was no overlap between the shows in my review docket and those in this year’s top ten.

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