Mary Zimmerman's Journey To The West is making a journey of its own. The show was first staged to much acclaim at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1995. In October, a production of the epic drama played at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, and that staging -- a co-production with Berkeley Repertory -- opened Dec. 4, in Berkeley, CA, for the show's West Coast premiere.
Journey follows the 16-year pilgrimage of Tripitaka, a monk trveling from China to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. Guided by a compassionate Bodhisattva, Tripitaka's joined by an acrobatic monkey, a gluttonous pig and the river spirit, Sha Monk. They encounter gods, monsters, spirits, kings and even the Buddha, before achieving enlightenment. Utilizing Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist philsophy, Journey is underscored with live, exotic music (by music director Willy Schwarz, Miriam Sturm and Michael Bodeen) and overlaid with ribald, but family-safe humor.
An artistic associate of the Goodman, Zimmerman directed her own The Notebooks Of Leonardo Da Vinci (which played Off-Broadway), as well as Goodman productions of All's Well That Ends Well and The Baltimore Waltz. Her adaptation of The Arabian Nights, staged with Chicago's Lookingglass Company, played at off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club.
Performing in Journey To The West are Nelson Mashita (Tripitaka), Kim Miyori (of Broadway's Pacific Overtures and Zoot Suit, best known for her work on TV's "St. Elsewhere"), Doug Hara, Paul Oakley Stovall, Soren Oliver, Chyong-Hwa Chang, Jane C. Cho, Colman Domingo, Christopher Donahue, Vanlentin Gregory, Michael Ordona, Remi Sandri, Emilie Talbot, Lisa Tejero, Jennie S. Yee and Kelvin Han Yee.
Drama Desk and Tony Award winning designer Scott Bradley (Seven Guitars designed the set; Allison Reeds designed the costumes, for which she won a Jeff Award. T.J. Gerckens designed the lighting, Michael Bodeen the sound. On Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 PM, Lydia Liu, assistant professor of East Asian Languages at UC Berkeley, will offer a pre-show lecture that is free and open to the public.
For tickets ($30-$39) and information on Journey To The West at the Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus through Jan. 19, 1997, call (510) 845-4700.
-- By David Lefkowitz