Robert Avila

Rolling out the carpet

Mary Zimmerman takes another Bay Area bow with The Arabian Nights
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REVIEW Director Mary Zimmerman's association with the Berkeley Rep goes back to 1996's Journey to the West, her adaptation of the classical Chinese novel, famously followed in 2001 by Metamorphoses, a visually startling adaptation from Ovid's collection of Greek and Roman myths for which she went on to receive a directing Tony. Read more »

Wonder as they wander

Traversing Joe Turner's Come and Gone and The Last Yiddish Poet
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The great Langston Hughes titled a volume of his autobiography I Wonder as I Wander, invoking the notion of the poet in terms entirely personal and inevitably representative of a whole people, violently unsettled by history and restlessly searching for meaning, home, dignity — in short, for themselves. In Hughes' art, this dovetailed with the image of the poet as blues singer and the blues singer as poet. Read more »

Rap-erations

Crisscrossing race and identity in Angry Black White Boy
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REVIEW Even if the rest of the "change" he's been promising remains elusive, Barack Obama's resounding electoral win is already change — and of a profound kind — given its undeniable impact on racial consciousness among African Americans, Americans at large, and no doubt people around the globe. Of course, nobody thinks racism disappeared overnight Nov. 4. If anything, the day marks an opportunity for a reinvigorated dialogue on the complexities of race and racism in the 21st-century United States. Read more »

The Cutting Ball Theater

GOLDIES 2008 winner: It's often the warped glass that furnishes the truest picture
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If you were at the latest Cutting Ball show, avantgardARAMA!, you entered a theater that looked like an art installation, already buzzing and flickering with video images on a screen suspended in front of a shimmering mirror-box set, accompanied by a soundtrack of voices and droning tones. It was like some serenely wicked room in a purgatorial funhouse, where all you've been and all you might become could be reflected at you, from every possible angle, ad infinitum. Read more »

No-brainer

A cheerfully quirky but cool Hot Lobotomy delivers at CounterPULSE
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REVIEW The title of David Szlasa's peculiar, compact, and appealing new work suggests one ready avenue of flight from a world gone mad, but in fact fantasies of escape take more than one form in My Hot Lobotomy, now up at CounterPULSE. And while escapism is exactly what the piece concerns itself with, the import is anything but apathetic or disengaged. Read more »

Sung and spoken wit

Laurie Anderson brings Homeland to Berkeley
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PREVIEW Last year saw the re-release of performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson's 1982 debut, Big Science (Warner Bros.). What a heady nostalgia its lo-fi cover invokes, a confidence now gone quaint with the one-time fad of robotic gestures, lab coats, and test-tube weirdness. It's just cute the way the '80s were catching up with the future.

But recently the recording's opening track, the eerie and wacky "From the Air," has been on shuffle rotation in the iPod of the brain as one of the more apt commentaries on present madness. Read more »

Let them eat rock

What price freedom in All You Can Eat? A spirited mouthful
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REVIEW The prologue and opening salvo in playwright-director Steve Morgan Haskell's spirited, fitfully inspired rock parable All You Can Eat — an offbeat, down-tempo call to arms — has a French accent, wielded by a woman named Camille de Tocqueville (a coolly assured Michelle Haner). Read more »

Do look back

Chazz Palminteri revisits A Bronx Tale
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REVIEW By now, the Italian American mean streets of New York — that colorful bustle of energies shadowed so enticingly by the wickedly romantic lives of entrepreneurial mafiosi — are an immovable fixture on the post-Scorsese, post-Sopranos landscape of cultural memory. So much so that, in its more run-of-the-mill versions, this world strikes the outsider as virtual at best: no more than a manufactured dreamscape. But authenticity is hard to fake. Read more »

No Seth Rogen

This Knocked Up studies the social baggage of two pregnant couples
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REVIEW Two young family-hungry couples, one unassuming victim of the staff Christmas party, and a lonely alky wife and mom-bonking boy-next-door all find themselves variously knocked up, around, and for a loop by the reproductive process in Imaginative Productions' stage adaptation of its 2006 independent film, "conceived" and directed by Tonya Foster. Read more »

As the world turns

Revolutions and Rock 'n' Roll in Tom Stoppard's latest philosophical epic
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REVIEW American Conservatory Theater's season opener marks the 40-year anniversary of 1968 with the well-timed if less than well-executed Bay Area premiere of Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, which from the dual vantage points of Prague and Cambridge traces revolutionary politics and counterculture between 1968's Prague Spring and 1989's Velvet Revolution.

Stoppard's latest but not greatest is almost a 20th-century coda to his grand three-part saga of 19th-century revolutionaries, The Coast of Utopia, building on the famed playwright's on Read more »