My experience of theater in Berkeley is that like the food in Costa Rica, it defies the laws of economics. The less you pay, the better it is, and vice versa. Several years ago I was given an expensive season's subscription to the Berkeley Rep, and to my great disappointment, almost all the shows turned out to be dreck, Overacted melodramas with gratuitous female nudity. Who needs a faux "Épater le Bourgeois" sensibility in a town that features The Explicit Players as regular naked street performers? If I wanted to watch Sex and the City, I could always go find someone who has a TV and watch it. Then I found a local community theater that puts on plays 3 blocks from my house, The Actor's Ensemble of Berkeley. They do a fantastic job. The performance of Long Day's Journey into Night they did was as good as the Broadway version I saw 20 years ago. Tickets for the Actor's Ensemble shows are only ten bucks, and well worth the price. The next show is Six Degrees of Seperation in October.
I have been on the mailing list for another of Berkeley's theater ensembles, the Shotgun Players, for a while, but had never seen a performance, but I got inspired this weekend to go see their production of Edmund Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. What a fantastic show! The setting is the open air amphitheater at John Hinckel Park in Berkeley (the original home of the California Shakespeare festival). The play is set in 17th century France, and the soldiers and swordsmen in their costumes look right at home in the park, appearing out of the trees or running down the aisles, swords flashing. Language is both a subject of the play and celebrated by the play, and The Shotgun Players picked a great translation of Rostand's play, and found someone able to do justice to the beautiful language and the part of Cyrano, Clive Worsley, who delivers a great performance. There are lots of memorable characters, from the pastry-chef poet to the lady-in-waiting with the swooping voice, and there is something for everyone in the family (over 8) to like: Musketeers, fancy dresses and swordplay for the pre-teens, star-crossed romance for the teens, great language for the adults, and wit for all to enjoy. And the cost? Up to you -- it is pass the hat donations at the end of the show. I was generous, because it is great to be able to support so much great inexpensive theater in Berkeley.
Cyrano de Bergerac is playing through Labor Day, and I highly recommend it for anyone over 8 years old. Bring warm clothes and a jacket, because it gets cold in the shade, especially if the fog comes in, and arrive 15 or 20 minutes early if you want to sit close to the center of the action.
Cross posted at The Berkeley BlogPosted by tim at August 21, 2005 04:25 PM