.Beyond the Fourth Wall

Our critics review local theater productions.

As You Like It — The court in Shakespeare’s tale of love, banishment, and cross-dressing is full of bored, bitchy thrill-seekers, the forest of Arden with disgraced but honorable nobles and their wayward children. It’s hard to understand why any of them would want to go back to court, because they make living in the woods look so appealing. In one of the most physically engaging shows I’ve seen Jon Moscone direct, As You Like It is filled with charming moments as the actors navigate the leaf-strewn and tree-heavy set. — L.D. (Through October 15 at the Bruns Amphitheater; CalShakes.org or 510-548-9666.)

Colorado — Local playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb celebrates this world premiere in Impact Theatre’s pizza-parlor basement. If the narrative about the worried family of a missing teen beauty queen often feels thin (especially the meandering conclusion), the dialogue contains enough belly laughs to carry the show, and newcomer Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production delivers them handily. — S.H. (Through October 28 at La Val’s Subterranean; ImpactTheatre.com or 510-464-446.)

Love Is a Dream House in Lorin — Shotgun commissioned Marcus Gardley to write a play based on interviews with residents of the Lorin district, the area the theater has called home since 2004. The story centers on a young mixed-race couple buying the rundown house of the title. Shotgun has long battled uneven acting, which is probably a consequence of often using actors with more potential and energy than experience. While the current show is no exception, for some reason, it’s not as obvious as you would expect in a large cast with so many untried performers. It’s also one of the most diverse casts to grace an East Bay stage in a long time, appropriate for a show that’s not only a play, but a celebration of and for the community. — L.D. (Through October 29 at the Ashby Stage; ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500.)

Mother Courage — Director Lisa Peterson uses the same David Hare translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage that Shotgun did a few years ago, but that’s where the similarity ends. From her casting to Rachel Haucks’ set design, this show is like stepping back to prewar Berlin. Making it look so much like the original might have reinforced how Brecht’s antiwar protest is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Set during the Thirty Years’ War, Brecht’s story of an enterprising woman making a life for herself and her motley children by selling things to the combatants is always going to feel long. But Peterson has some sharp actors, especially Ivonne Coll as Courage. — L.D. (Through October 22 at the Berkeley Rep; BerkeleyRep.org or 888-427-8849.)

Thoroughly Modern Millie — Diablo Light Opera Company presents the East Bay premiere of this amusing but lightweight Tony-winning musical, based on the Julie Andrews flick about a small-town gal in New York City in 1922 determined to marry her boss out of mercenary pragmatism, with a white slave-trading ring for good measure. The new songs by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan are generally pleasant Jazz Age pastiche, but overly convoluted and largely forgotten by the time the reprise rolls around. — S.H. (Through November 4 at the Dean Lesher Center; DLRCA.org or 925-943-7469.)


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