THOUGHTS: It Can’t Happen Here at Berkeley Rep

ICHH ensemble

Cast members in the world premiere of It Can’t Happen Here at Berkeley Rep. Seated: Anna Ishida and Tom Nelis. Standing, left to right: Gerardo Rodriguez, Gabriel Montoya, William Thomas Hodgson, Deidrie Henry, Scott Coopwood, Will Rogers, Alexander Lydon, Carolina Sanchez, Mark Kenneth Smaltz, and Sharon Lockwood.
Photo credit: Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

It Can’t Happen Here was written in a United States still reeling from the Great Depression. Fascism was on the rise in Europe, and there were fears that it would cross the Atlantic.

Senator Huey Long of Louisiana had broken with his party– as well as President Roosevelt– over the New Deal, and he was poised to run as a third party candidate with the support of a fiery, anti-Semitic radio personality, Father Charles Coughlin. Author Sinclair Lewis and his wife Dorothy Thompson, a political reporter, were among those concerned about a possible dictatorship should Roosevelt lose. And thus was born the book that was then adapted into a play. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

Latin History blackboard

Award-winning playwright, actor, and performer John Leguizamo in the world premiere of Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

John Leguizamo opens his new one-man show with a bit about his son getting bullied at his middle school. The bully comes from a long line of cops and veterans, or, as he puts it, “heroes.” To boost his son’s spirits and maybe his social standing, and because, as it turns out, his son actually has to write a paper about the subject to graduate 8th grade, Leguizamo decides to find a Latin American hero for his son to be proud of.

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THOUGHTS: aubergine at Berkeley Rep

Ray and Lucien

(l to r) Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Lucien) and Tim Kang (Ray) in Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

aubergine opens with a single character, Diane (Safiya Fredericks), on a bare stage. Her appearance, and her monologue, could represent the next two hours: lean, contemplative, and full of food and familial relationships.

Ray (Tim Kang) is a chef whose relationship with his immigrant father (Sab Shimono) could be described as strained at best. But now his father is dying, and Ray is his primary caregiver.

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THOUGHTS: Disgraced at Berkeley Rep

Dinner party - Disgraced

(l to r) Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory), and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, an engrossing and combustible drama that probes the complexity of identity, at Berkeley Rep.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren

It seems Pakistani-American Amir Kapoor (Bernard White) is living the American Dream. He has an Upper East Side apartment complete with a balcony; a beautiful, blonde, artist wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis); and he is poised to make partner at his corporate law firm. But one New York Times story, and an explosive dinner party with his co-worker Jory (Zakiya Young) and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) threatens to shatter everything that he has worked for.

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THOUGHTS: Choir Boy

Choir Boy Ensemble

Pharus (Jelani Alladin), Junior (Rotimi Agbabiaka), David (Forest Van Dyke), Bobby (Dimitri Woods) and AJ (Jaysen Wright) performing. Photo credit: Kevin Berne

It seems fitting to see a play that deals homosexuality on the day the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Like Loving v. Virginia almost a half-century ago, Obergefell v. Hodge is poised to change history.

Tarell Alvin McCraney originally debuted Choir Boy in September 2012, but with the Supreme Court decision and the recent attacks on African-American congregations in the South, it feels like it was written specifically for the audience of June 2015.

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THOUGHTS: We Are Proud to Present….

Proud to Present - Colonialism

L to R: White Man (Lucas Hatton), Sarah (Megan Trout), Another Black Man (Rotimi Agbabiaka) and Black Man (David Moore) illustrate the history of the Herero under German colonial rule.
Credit: Cheshire Isaacs

It was only last month that I was watching a play set in India in the 1930s written by a white Brit and directed by a white American. This makes We Are Proud to Present… all the more timely.

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