Robert Avila

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 »

Live through this

"Spring Awakening" rocks unabashedly toward the schmaltz
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REVIEW Hey, kids! Wake up and smell the freedom! Outside the RNC, for instance, where a phalanx of Taser-wielding storm troopers recently did their dirty work on citizens practicing what civics classes used to call free speech. One 19-year-old there was beaten unconscious, hooded, hauled away, and beaten some more — subjected to what any dropout in years past would have rightly called torture. Read more »

Knuckleballin'

San Francisco Fringe Festival juggles peg heads, clowns, Nazi pals
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REVIEW I don't know if it helps to have a strategy at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. The nature of this annual animal — the 17th installment opened Sept. 3 — resists forethought. You study the program, listen to the buzz while getting yours on in the Exit Theatre Café, read the audience reviews online, but in the end you never know what you'll get. This year I led with my gut and — it being that kind of year — decided to go for all the dark stuff: the ugly, the brutal, the profane. Read more »

Curtain calls

Fall Arts Preview: Theater gets political, playful, potent
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Fall arts resolution No. 1: have no faith in leaders. Obummer and McPain will only disappoint, or worse. (Probably worse.) If faith you must ooze, kindly direct it toward people who really care about you and have your interests at heart. Why did Gore Vidal write his play The Best Man (1960), for instance? Most likely it wasn't to get elected (though he did try). Read more »

Collage boys

In Zona by 2boys.tv, life is a multilayered, dark queer cabaret
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As we enter the intoxicatingly rich world of Zona, we encounter a deceptively simple melodrama. It unfolds in shadow play on a gold-hued screen fronting a kind of rectangular tent at the back of the stage. We see the silhouette of a mother cradling her newborn infant, swaddled in a blanket, as an old recording of an Italian operatic duet comes seeping through. The woman sets the baby down and briefly retires from the scene, giving opportunity to a snarling beast which promptly swoops in and snatches up the child. Read more »