By Kenneth Jones
03 Mar 2010
Three world premieres will punctuate the season: Rinne Groff's Compulsion, directed by Oskar Eustis and inspired by Meyer Levin's real-life passion for exposing Anne Frank's diary; Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead starring Geoff Hoyle; and artistic director Tony Taccone's new biographical show about (and starring) multiple award-winning actress Rita Moreno.
Berkeley Rep's 2010-11 season begins in September with the world-premiere production of Compulsion on the intimate Thrust Stage. The play was commissioned by Berkeley Rep and The Public, and they are producing it along with Yale Repertory Theatre.
Starting in October, The Great Game: Afghanistan, "a sweeping cycle of short scripts by 12 top playwrights, " the show "explores Afghanistan over the last 150 years." Direct from London, where it debuted to rave reviews, The Great Game makes its West Coast premiere in the Rep's Roda Theatre, performed by British actors. Presented in three parts — on different days or in one marathon — The Great Game "explores the eternal struggle to control Central Asia," according to the Rep. "World powers and warlords, diplomats and activists, opium farmers and ordinary people... all of them tangle with the tribes and traditions of Afghanistan. An emotional event that illuminates the complex culture of Afghanistan."
Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham direct.
After Thanksgiving, The Composer is Dead, "a deliciously silly world premiere from beloved Bay Area artists," features text by bestselling author Lemony Snicket and a score by composer Nathaniel Stookey. Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) penned "A Series of Unfortunate Events," the best-selling collection of kids' books. In it, "the show must go on — but the actor is mute, the director is crying, the dancer is lazy... and the composer is dead!" It will play the holidays at the Roda Theatre.
Taccone will direct a cast that includes Bay Area favorite Hoyle, working alongside puppets from the Phantom Limb Company.
Monologist Daisey returns to the Bay Area in January 2011 for a doubleheader of solo shows: two provocative new pieces that examine America's obsession with commerce. In The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, "Daisey dives into the epic story of a real-life Willy Wonka whose personal obsessions profoundly affect our everyday lives — and follows the trail to China where millions toil in factories to create iPhones and iPods." With The Last Cargo Cult, Daisey travels to a remote island in the South Pacific whose inhabitants actually worship America and its goods. He observes their rituals as the world's financial system collapses, spurring a soul-searching assessment of what money means and who is paying the price."
Daisey's director and long-time collaborator is Jean-Michele Gregory.
In March 2011, Berkeley Rep will present Lynn Nottage's Ruined, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The play looks at the leader of a brothel in civil-war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. The co-production with the Huntington Theatre Company and La Jolla Playhouse is directed by Leisl Tommy, in the Roda.
In April, the Rep produces the West Coast premiere of Sarah Ruhl's translation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, directed by Les Waters (In the Next Room, Eurydice).
The season will conclude in May with another (as yet untitled) world premiere in the Roda Theatre. "During her spectacular career, Rita Moreno has portrayed some tough women, from Anita in 'West Side Story' to Maria Callas in Master Class," according to the Rep. "Now this magnificent performer takes on the toughest woman of all — herself. The star of stage and screen returns to Berkeley Rep to tell her tale in an irreverent and entertaining new show that's full of surprises and songs."
Moreno starred in two previous hits at Berkeley Rep: Master Class and The Glass Menagerie. The actress has the Oscar, the Tony, the Grammy and two Emmys. Taccone makes his debut as a playwright with this script, "drawing on decades of experience creating shows with leading solo artists." David Galligan will direct.
The Tony Award-winning Berkeley Rep (and its Roda Theatre and Thrust Stage) is located on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, CA. Broadway's American Idiot and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) are among productions that were launched at Berkeley Rep.
For more information, call (510) 647-2949 or (888) 4-BRT-TIX (toll-free) or visit berkeleyrep.org.