What’s Happening in East Bay Theater

Our critics weigh in on local theater.

Brundibar and Comedy on the Bridge — Hard to believe that the men behind Where the Wild Things Are and Angels in America have anything in common. But children’s-book author Maurice Sendak and playwright Tony Kushner are so tight that Kushner wrote the text for the weighty The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to Present, a massive tome covering Sendak’s recent work, including explorations into theatrical design. The most recent collaboration between the two men is the micro-opera Brundibar, now running at the Berkeley Rep in a whiz-bang production. First they did it as a book, and now it’s a gorgeous little chunk of live music, stunning sets, and masses of singing children. It’s been paired with another Czech import, Vàclav Kliment Klicpera and Bohuslav Martinu’s Comedy on the Bridge, for two different perspectives on the perils of fascism. — L.D. (Through December 28 at The Berkeley Rep; BerkeleyRep.org or 510-647-2949.)

Cabaret — Ah, the holidays. Time for familiar music, wholesome cheer, nudity, politics, simulated sex, and dripping blood. At least at the Ashby Playhouse, where the Shotgun Players once again resist the Dickensian compulsion by staging Masteroff, Kander, and Ebb’s debauched Cabaret through the end of the year. Clifford Bradshaw has come to Weimar Berlin to write his great novel, a task at which he fails miserably once the boisterous, demanding Sally Bowles trips into his life and blithely turns everything upside down. — L.D. (Through January 8 at the Ashby Stage; ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500.)

Oliver! — Folks who love the earnest enthusiasm of community theater will find plenty to relish in the Willows Theatre’s new production. The Concord company pulls out all the stops, using revolving sets and complicated choreography to tell the classic tale of Oliver Twist, the orphan waif adrift in the mean streets of London. However, those who fault this musical for its mundane dialogue and sentimental, cliché-ridden songs will not find it improved in this interpretation by the sons of suburbia. — E.S. (Through December 31 at the Willows; WillowsTheatre.org or 925-798-1300.)

Peter & Wendy — This loose but loving adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan conceived and directed by artistic director Kevin T. Morales injects new life into the classic by bringing it back to its roots in the imagination. There’s no wirework here: flying is done on tippytoes, Tinker Bell is a golden glove on a sassy Janette Wallen’s hand, and actors move Klyph Stanford’s minimal set around as Mrs. Darling (Carolyn Power) tells the tale with gushing enthusiasm. And it’s delightful. — S.H. (Through December 24 at Town Hall Theatre; THTC.org or 925-283-1557.)

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