Beyond the Fourth Wall

Our critics review local theater productions.

Bingo — How much you like bingo is probably a good indicator of how much you’re going to like a musical about bingo. At an hour and a half with no intermission, it breezes through a flimsy plot about old friends torn asunder by petty stubbornness. Our heroines are a trio of types more than characters: the hard-edged, bullish boss lady (Ginger Riley), the superstitious eccentric (Tami Dahbura) and the unlucky-in-love bingo bimbo (Maureen McVerry). Cynthia Myers is sunny in flashbacks as the exiled friend, and Ariela Morgenstern a bright ingenue as her daughter come to make peace. The jokes are corny, the songs a retro pastiche of brassy old-time Broadway, and the highlight is part of a whole other show: Morgenstern’s bombastic “Ratched’s Lament” from a made-up musical of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Through April 21 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts; or 925-943-7469.)

Blood Wedding — Federico García Lorca’s plays aren’t staged nearly often enough, in part because they’re difficult to pull off. The dialogue is largely poetic declarations, the characters more archetypes than personalities, so it’s a delicate balance not to make them cartoonish, as is evident in the Shotgun production. Erin Gilley and Ryan O’Donnell aptly embody the nervous bride and groom, but John-Paul Goorjian as romantic rival Leonardo is pure soap opera. Part of the problem in Evren Odcikin’s flamenco-themed staging is too many distractions, from stomping scene changes to the cast seated onstage as a rowdy audience. The stylized staging works better in the second act than the first, giving mythic weight to the manhunt led by the bloodthirsty moon (embodied commandingly by Dawn Scott), a striking slo-mo duel, and its tragic aftermath. (Through April 22 at the Ashby Stage; or 510-841-6500.)

Clown Bible — Ten Red Hen’s hilarious and unexpectedly challenging biblical clown show plays fast and loose with scripture and creates some heady connections in the process. From the point where Adam and Eve pluck red noses from the Tree of Knowledge, the performers’ distinct clown personae carry them through however many biblical roles. Jane Chen oversees the action as God, an imperious silhouette with a megaphone behind a second-story screen, and also plays an intensely vulnerable and often pissy Jesus as well as Satan through a sock-puppet snake on her arm. The songs by Dave Malloy, who leads the band on piano and doubles as Job and Judas, are catchy and often haunting. The magic of the show lies less in any great spectacle of circus arts than in the way it can turn from funny to devastating in an instant, and how it makes you look at these old stories in a new way. (Through April 14 at Willard Metalshop Theater; or 800-838-3006.)

The Cripple of Inishmaan Martin McDonagh’s snappy patter in thick, profanity-laced dialect is definitely the star of the show in this dark comedy set around the filming of Robert J. Flaherty’s 1934 documentary Man of Aran, and fortunately the dialogue flows nicely in the Wilde Irish production helmed by artistic director Stephanie Courtney-Foss. Several of the actors being Irish themselves certainly doesn’t hurt. Eddie FitzGerald gives a sense of the aching heart and sullen heartlessness of Cripple Billy Clavin, hunched over like Richard III, and you can see how much Howard Dillon’s infuriating professional gossip Johnnypatteenmike McDougal relishes forcing folks to endure his more boring news before getting to the good stuff. Like the yarns he tells, even when the performances aren’t entirely believable, they’re often funny enough that you don’t mind. (Through April 15 at the Berkeley City Club; or 510-644-9940.)


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