A Doctor in Spite of Himself
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Thru Mar. 25
Stephen Epp returns to Berkeley Rep to make the world a funnier place, again. It’s a joke among dramaturgs (yes, we joke) that the world needs no more adaptations of Sophocles or Molière. However, Stephen Epp, who spent 25 years working with Tony Award–winning Théâtre de la Jeune Lune, inhabits his characters and sculpts their reality with a force that is not only physical but visceral, leaving no room for the pretentious or precious. It’s genuinely inspiring. When Epp played the titular role in Jeune Lune’s The Miser at Berkeley Rep in 2006, his Harpagon was the crotchety, driven center around which the rest of the characters spun, ricocheting off the walls and each other as they played to his vanities or avoided his wrath. This time Epp has a hand in the adaptation of the text as well as playing the title role; it will be exciting to see how victoriously this production proves all those joking dramaturgs wrong. Visit berkeleyrep.org.
The Coast of Utopia, Part One: Voyage
Mar. 14–Apr. 15
I admit to having the standard-issue dramaturg’s crush on Tom Stoppard. The playwright who made flipping coins funny and Latin grammar heartbreaking really rolls up his sleeves and gets to work in the epic Coast of Utopia trilogy, which shows political philosophy colliding with messy reality during three turbulent decades in Russia. Part One: Voyage begins in the mid-1800s on the estate of a wealthy serf-owning family. The heir is a dashing, ADD-afflicted iconoclast whose “shifting infatuation with a series of big ideas,” as noted by New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley, is put to the test by political events in Moscow, where “theory meets practice and crashes.” I can’t wait to see how the folks over at Shotgun bring this rich world of ideas to life. Visit shotgunplayers.org.
God of Carnage
San Jose Repertory Theatre
Mar. 22–Apr. 15
Plenty of shows offer dazzling visual and sound effects, but I often find myself craving something stripped down and spare, something that proves how little tech we actually need to create exciting stories. God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza, depicts four upper-middle-class adults talking in a room; not exactly a recipe for earth-shaking theatre. However, this play follows the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? primer of interpersonal relationships, so what begins as an attempt at civilized discussion about their children (one child has hurt the other at school) turns into a vicious storm of rapidly shifting antagonisms that exposes each participant at his or her most animal. A story this lean and mean can show how thrilling it can be to just watch powerful writing meet powerful acting.
I am a sucker for anything involving Alice in Wonderland. This bizarre Victorian narrative has become canonical as a version of the “quest” tale, and continues to inspire the wildest adaptations. Alice Superbrain, written and directed by Italian director Andrea Lanza, is probably the strangest I’ve come across. This tech-focused project comprises four different “sections,” each exploring a different theme, and will unfold over one year in cities around the globe (including San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and Turin). The San Francisco component, “The Twin Section,” focuses on doubles, twins and reflections in Lewis Carroll’s work. Sound like your cup of tea? Well, don’t blink or you’ll miss it—there are only two performances before it goes down the rabbit hole. Visit vimeo.com/34817607.