Theater in the East Bay is back big time this fall, with diverse shows that demonstrate the provocative, exploratory missions of its sustaining companies and series—and also offering some just plain fun. There are world premieres, classics reimagined, international visitors and some very big wigs. Below, in alphabetical order by company, take a look at some of the season’s most enticing offerings.
For a taste of something truly topical, check out this new play at Berkeley’s Aurora.
Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious
This world premiere of a “biting comedy” by Dustin Chinn takes its inspiration from “two viral incidents around cultural appropriation and food,” according to Berkeley’s Aurora. Chinn states he “followed the rabbit hole” and wrote “a triptych about the ownership and authorship of food following the journey of Vietnamese noodle soup.” It begins in 1880s Hanoi, where a Vietnamese cook finds herself in the kitchen of aristocratic French settlers; continues in Saigon, 1999, where American diners get their first taste of the local cuisine; then ends in present-day, gentrifying Brooklyn, where “the simmering argument around culture, ownership and authenticity comes to a roaring boil,” according to Aurora’s press release.
Opens Nov. 4. auroratheatre.org
BAY AREA CHILDREN’S THEATRE
Best way to create a lifelong theater-lover? Introduce them while they’re young.
• Elephant and Piggie: We Are In A Play
Popular children’s author Mo Willems’ lovable Piggie and Gerald star in a musical story about not knowing what is going to happen today—which means anything is possible. Skipping? Ping pong? How about a party invitation?
Through Oct 23. bactheatre.org
Bay Area theater fans know how lucky they are to be able to see the always-innovative productions at Berkeley Rep. The fall season is no exception.
The world-premiere musical, based on the African myth of Marimba, continues at the Rep. Created by the award-winning team of creator/director Saheem Ali, playwright Jocelyn Bioh and composer Michael Thurber, Goddess is set in Moto Moto, an Afro-jazz club in Mombasa, Kenya, where a mysterious singer arrives, “casting an entrancing spell on everyone, including a young man who has returned home from studying in America.” See the EBX feature: https://eastbayexpress.com/a-goddess-is-born-berkeley-rep-stages-musical-inspired-by-african-myth/
Through Sept. 25. berkeleyrep.org
• Wuthering Heights
Acclaimed director Emma Rice and her new company, Wise Children, return to Berkeley Rep with her latest “wildly imaginative theatrical experience,” says their website. Rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child, Heathcliff is adopted by the Earnshaws and taken to live at Wuthering Heights. He finds a kindred spirit in Catherine Earnshaw and a fierce love ignites. When forced apart, a brutal chain of events is unleashed. Rice “reimagines Emily Brontë’s gothic masterpiece with live music, dance, passion, hope and a dash of impish irreverence, creating an intoxicating revenge tragedy for today,” says the theater. The show is a co-production of Britain’s National Theatre, Wise Children, the Bristol Old Vic and the York Theatre Royal, and is a West Coast premiere.
Opens Nov. 22. berkeleyrep.org
UC Berkeley’s always outstanding Cal Performances series includes two dance theater presentations from international companies.
• Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Combining modern dance, ballet, martial arts, qigong and Taoist chants, this piece created by artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung is inspired by his boyhood in bustling Taipei, part dream, part real. The street life of Taipei comes alive with neon lights, urban sounds, religious rites and festive parades. The London Times said, “surges of high-energy movement, punctuated by moments of exquisite stillness and beauty.”
Oct. 29, 30. calperformances.org
• Boy Blue
Blak Whyte Gray: A Hip-Hop Dance Triple Bill
East London’s Boy Blue recreates 2017’s smash hit, fusing popping, krump and African dance to tell a story of a path from oppression to freedom, all set to an electronic score. The Olivier-nominated production resonated with UK audiences “for its political bite, lean storytelling, and inspiring message of transformation and renewal,” says Cal Performances.
Dec. 9, 10, 11. calperformances.org
Central Works, celebrating more than three decades of developing local playwrights, uses a collaboration of more than 60 artists, workers and volunteers to present its shows at its 50-seat theater at the Berkeley City Club.
The Museum Annex
Written by Mildred Inez Lewis, this world premiere is a riff on—Central Works calls it an “homage to”—George C. Wolfe’s 1986 The Colored Museum. That work was set in an imaginary museum, where each of the 11 exhibits focused on a part of the Black experience. Originally titled The Women’s Annex, “Welcome,” says the company, adds “something of a ‘new wing’ onto the original museum.”
Opens Oct 15. centralworks.org
FEROCIOUS LOTUS THEATRE COMPANY
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Berkeley’s Ferocious Lotus is presenting Evolution, a festival of six original short plays exploring what it means to be Asian/Asian-American. This is a co-production with TheatreFIRST. Plays include:
Mahãbhārata by Geetha Reddy, Casa Vega by Leon Goertzen, Where Are We Going? by Cindy Cesca Yoshiyama,The Floater by Sango Tajima, Written in Water by Lisa Kang and Interventions by Greg Lam. “This collection… looks at modern relationships and ancient texts, parenting, time travel, personal and cultural identities,” according to the company.
Opens Sept. 16. ferociouslotus.org
OAKLAND THEATER PROJECT
The always-adventurous Oakland Theater Project (OTP) has three new shows coming up this fall.
• The Crucible
According to Oakland Theater Project’s press release, Arthur Miller’s classic, inspired by his own experiences with McCarthyism, is “reimagined for a contemporary world, [drawing] on dance and digital technology as the physical and virtual worlds collide, the roles between observer and observed are blurred, and fear is an ever-present undercurrent.” According to director Michael Socrates Moran, the production will “ask us to reckon with the universally human impulse to scapegoat another, and what dignity and integrity still cost in today’s world.”
Opens Sept. 2. oaklandtheaterproject.org/
OTP partners with California Shakespeare Theater to produce Marcus Gardley’s modern version of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Directed by Cal Shakes artistic director Eric Ting and Aurora Theater Company’s associate artistic director Dawn Monique Williams, the production is set in San Francisco’s Fillmore District from the eminent domain crisis to the subsequent displacement of the 1960s. It will be staged at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Amphitheater.
Opens Sept. 7. oaklandtheaterproject.org/
Anything Can Happen in 10 Minutes Play Festival
Features 10-minute plays from the Bay Area and around the nation based on the concept “anything can happen.” Oakland’s Pan Theater read and reviewed “hundreds of plays” and picked eight best suited to the idea. “We’ve chosen the funniest, most exciting and most dramatic possibilities that combine to create a sense of the possible…in ten minutes,” says Pan Theater.
Nov. 18, 19. pantheater.com
Drag fans, rejoice, because two big—and we do mean big—shows are coming to Oakland’s Paramount Theatre this fall.
• RuPaul’s Drag Race WERQ The World 2022
The Paramount Theatre hosts one night of this year’s version of the touring tribute to drag fabulousness. An experiment gone wrong has sent the audience spiraling through time with no way of returning to the present. Join Gottmik, Jaida Essence Hall, Naomi Smalls, Violet Chachki and all finalists from the upcoming 14th season on a journey through iconic periods of history in hopes of finding your way back to 2022.
Sept. 9, paramountoakland.org
• Trixie & Katya Live
More world-classy drag comes to the Paramount with this show, described by the theater as “the dynamic drag duo deliver unparalleled feats of theatrical eroticism and hilarious ingenuity right before your very eyes.” It’s what critics are calling “shockingly poignant and mercifully brief,” and we are so there.
Oct. 10, paramountoakland.org
Berkeley’s Shotgun Players celebrate women as central characters in two offerings this fall.
• Man of God
A real-life incident at a Christian mission in Southeast Asia inspired Man of God, which explores the lives of four young women faced with a choice. Says Shotgun: “A funny feminist thriller about that moment when girls realize the male gaze has been watching all along—and decide they are definitely gonna do something about it.”
Opens Sept. 3. shotgunplayers.org
• Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Nominated for 12 Tonys during its New York run, this musical extravaganza is based upon a section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Natasha is a young woman who arrives in Moscow longing for her fiancé; and then there is Pierre, a middle-aged man full of regrets. Says Shotgun, “Expect to find the Ashby Stage transformed with cabaret tables, Russian vodka and an unforgettable theatrical experience.”
Opens Nov. 5. shotgunplayers.org
Attempts On Her Life
An all-female ensemble will present Martin Crimp’s contemporary postmodern play. Seventeen seemingly unconnected scenes will comment on the life of the protagonist, Anne, defining who she is (or was) through hot-button topics including pop culture, political violence and personal identity.
Opens Oct. 21. theatrelunatico.org
Berkeley’s TheatreFIRST focuses on developing new work, and its 40-member community is mandated to be at a minimum two-thirds people of color, half female-identified and one-third LGBTQIA2+ in all aspects of infrastructure and production.
• The Music of Mothers
Written and directed by Victoria Erville, this drama focuses on the shifting relationship between best friends from different racial backgrounds, who struggle to raise their sons side-by-side in an ever-changing political and cultural landscape. “Through anger, laughter and pain, the two women must decide if they will hold on to each other as their friendship bends close to breaking,” claims TheatreFIRST. Opens Oct. 7. theatrefirst.com