Posts in Reviews
The Aurora's 'Everything is Illuminated' Is A Failure of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Aesthetic and Moral Imagination

There’s something distasteful about rank ambition and its stench is all over the Aurora Theater’s production of Simon Block’s stage adaption of Jonathan Safran Foer’s kind-of-celebrated, first novel, Everything is Illuminated. The whole enterprise is what we might call anxious for significance.

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ACT's 'Men On Boats' Is An Illusion Of True Engagement

Men in Boats is as an incredible failure of imagination. The actual story of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 trip down the Colorado River is stirring and complex, a moment in history worthy of investigation, critique, celebration, whatever your game. Yet you can’t get to any of that without a real vision or philosophy of history. And a real vision would never reduce these complex people to stick figure goofballs.

What we get from Men on Boats is an illusion of real engagement and experimentation. It’s selling radical critique, revisionist history, feminist ideals, and theatrical invention, but it’s all packaging without soul or sense or care, just idle gestures to make us feel that something has happened.

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The Berkeley Rep's 'Fairview' And The Rules Of The Game

Sometimes you see a play and you just want to make up some rules. Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview has certainly garnered a lot of controversy and audiences and critics have been fairly tight-lipped about what actually happens in the Berkley Rep over the course of Drury’s 100-minute dissection of, I guess the best way to put it is, race and perception.

That’s the first trap of the evening and you should both enjoy and resist it.

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Shotgun's 'Women Laughing Alone With Salad' Defies Its Own Sense Of The World

There are a lot of problems with Shelia Callaghan’s Women Laughing Alone With Salad and, interestingly enough, many of them touch on what we might call the limits of representation. Or just simply, what can you get away with in the theater. The talented but undisciplined Callaghan wants to get away with everything and director Susannah Martin, quite savvy at staging difficult texts, does her best to make that possible in a game but ungainly Shotgun Players production.

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Marc Kate and Fauxnique's 'Girl' Is A Fragment Of Philosophy In The Guise Of A Lovely Bit Of Performance

Girl is a kind of beautiful abstraction that takes the last girl trope of slasher films and subjects it to a philosophy of violence. Of course we know the situation: after all the terror and killing is done, there’s always a girl with lovely brown hair struggling to escape, to claw her way back to something approaching a normal life, or any life at all. Her moment is always some combination of the smutty indifference of the snuff film and a survivor’s religious transcendence. Kate and Fauxnique choose transcendence (with snuff lurking at a distance) and the effect is, at times, stunning.

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Schaubuhne's 'An Enemy of the People' Leads Us To Our Own Interrogation And That's Great

If An Enemy of the People is a battle about truth, both play and production relentlessly pursue its aesthetic correlative: how to depict reality. Today, Ibsen’s realism has become—in a greatly diluted form—ours. By embracing aggressive, non-realistic staging techniques, Ostemeier re-imagines Ibsen’s most radical goals of representing the world, and in fact demands that his production make us feel the shock of it, the shock of what is actually in front of us.

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Ubuntu's 'Hamlet' Is Epic, Crazed, And So Full Of Life That You'll Cry

You should run to the Ubuntu Theater Project’s Hamlet, because what you’ll see for the first two hours of this three-hour production is an incredibly clear, passionate, at times deranged, epic staging of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. Its anger seems ripped from the streets and placed right on stage, but not in a didactic or direct way. Sometimes clarity is oblique and attacks us from behind. But what’s in front of us burns with an intensity so ridiculous that parts of it will make you cry.

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ACT's 'Sweat' Reaches Its Emotional and Political Limit--Too Soon

Almost everything in Sweat is a product of subject matter and situation. Only at the edges of the drama do we get anything close to human imagination. You see glimpses of life in some of the minor characters: the drunk Jessie who just wants a kiss on her birthday; Evan, a parole officer with a surprisingly humane and realistic view of the world; and Brucie, Cynthia’s drug addled ex, who may be the most interesting character on stage and certainly the freest.

Thrust to the side of the primary story, these bit players have some room to breathe. And because of that they’re kind of fascinating. Or put another way: the further the play gets away from the central drama, the more it roils with actual life.

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Marin Theatre Company's 'Oslo' Is Entertaining But Not Crazy Enough

I can’t help but think that there’s another play lurking in Oslo, nastier, more alive, less fair-minded, and memorable enough to force the most jaded of us to care. Because right now, in this Oslo, what we care about are negotiations. They could have been between East Timor and Australia, or a couple of boys trading baseball cards. There’s a way in which the Israelis and Palestinians are incidental to the entire experience.

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Cutting Ball's 'Vanya' Tries Everything

What I’m going to say about Cutting Ball’s Uncle Vanya is completely unrealistic and unfair, but the problem here is rehearsal time and how theaters produce work. The production feels like a very well-rehearsed first draft, where everything was attempted and nothing rejected. You wonder what might have happened if they had spent an equal amount of time with a scalpel, paring closer and closer to the bone until every effect was either excised or found its way into the blood of Chekhov’s stunning play. There are pleasures here, but not enough discipline for real and sustained success.

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