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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Weekender: Top Events in the East Bay Over the Next Three Days

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 11:33 PM

Hello, beautiful people. Here's what you're doing this weekend.

Mama Buzz' Final Show
Visitors to MamaBuzzCafe.com will receive an arresting surprise this week: some random placeholder ads and the message "This domain has expired." Unfortunately it's not an error. After almost ten years in business, the cafe — a longtime hub for in-the-know Berkeley undergrads, art school experimenters, self-employed writers and thinkers, and new musicians of all inclinations — is facing closure after losing its lease. And unless matters improve, it'll have to shut its doors on January 1. So with its future still up in the air, Mama Buzz is spending the month of December reluctantly wrapping things up and celebrating nearly a decade of local culture. On Saturday, December 17, the cafe holds its final show, featuring Street Eaters, Heist, Know Your Saints, Great Apes, and Company. The event also has an added philanthropic element: In an attempt to strike a charitable chord with the DIY community, the show will include a canned-food drive to benefit the Alameda County Food Bank. Each can or boxed-food item will count as a dollar off the $5 suggested donation. That seems apropos of the Mama Buzz ethos. It started out as a scrappy eatery and became a veritable institution, without letting go of its roots. It will surely be mourned and missed. — Will Butler

God's Plot
Only a playwright like Mark Jackson would have the audacity to dredge up and dramatize the first play ever staged in America — a colonial satire called YeBarre, Ye Cubbe. And interestingly enough, it's still timely. Turns out the colonists were using a bear and cub to protest an unfair taxation system, which was funneling all the profits from their tobacco bumper crop back to rich aristocrats in England. Sound familiar? Jackson doesn't shy away from political subtexts in his own updated rendition, but what he's mostly interested in is the colonists' fixation with religion. The title of his play, God's Plot, derives from the idea that Puritans thought they were acting out a grand play for God — thus, they spent their lives performing, confessing, acting penitent, and always watching one another. The conceit is fairly cerebral, but the execution is thoroughly engaging, especially since it's staged as a musical. Daveen Di Giacomo wrote the score; Nina Ball designed the stark, churchy set; Juliana Lustenader and Carl Holvick-Thomas star. Through Jan. 15 at The Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley). $18-$27. ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500 — Rachel Swan

Two Gallants: adorbs, right?
  • Two Gallants: adorbs, right?
Two Gallants
Oh, how the East Bay has missed these guys. The San Francisco duo, which is Tyson Vogell on drums and Adam Stephens on guitar and vocals, spent three years apart, and it's a godsend for the Bay Area's music community that they're back in action. If you try to get a grip on their sound, they'll slip through your fingers. They writhe through the gutters of music history like a deluge of icy winter rain, picking up the best parts of blues rock, punk rock, progressive rock, and pure, eloquent folk. They cut their teeth a decade ago on the streets of San Francisco, drawing cult followers with their natural performance abilities. They've both had side projects and solo endeavors, which showed glimpses of their individual talents but didn't hold a candle to the inimitable chemistry that they share as Two Gallants. Vogell's drumming is that of a madman: rapid-fire, dragging, halting, lurching, but always catching Stephen's expressive guitar work at the right moments. A solo show from Tim Cohen of The Fresh & Onlys should also be a highlight of the night. At Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley) on Friday, Dec. 16. 8 p.m., $10. 924Gilman.org. — Will Butler

The Descendants
A major triumph for both director Alexander Payne and actor George Clooney, who plays a well-off Honolulu businessman with big decisions to make after an accident leaves his wife in a coma. The emotional and ethical progress of “back-up parent” Matt King (Clooney) and his daughters is of a piece with the humane, funny, ultimately touching portraits of similarly flummoxed characters in Sideways, About Schmidt, and the rest of the Payne filmography. Like Preston Sturges, Payne is as infatuated with individual Americans as he is with the idea of being an American — here expanded to take in Matt’s native Hawaiian family background. Clooney turns in one of his finest performances, maybe his best to date, with terrific support by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as the daughters. The wistful, lovely traditional Hawaiian music is also perfect. Screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, adapted from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Fine support acting by Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, and Robert Foster. Refreshing and invigorating as an island breeze. Playing all weekend throughout the East Bay; see showtimes hereKelly Vance

ZooLights
While animals are typically a zoo's main attraction, at the Oakland Zoo (9777 Golf Links Rd., Oakland), hundreds of thousands of sparkling LED lights could momentarily steal the spotlight from the animal kingdom. After the sun goes down each evening in December, the zoo comes aglow with an extravagant, holiday-themed light show that includes dancing toy soldiers, gingerbread men, and lollipops. That's in addition to trips offered on the Outback Express train, candy cane lane-themed rides, festive music by KBLX radio, and more. From Friday, Dec. 2, through Sunday, Jan. 1. 5:30-9 p.m., $4.50-$7.50. 510-632-9525 or OaklandZoo.org. — Cassie Harwood

Bernard Sadoulet: "Shedding Light on the Dark Side of the Universe"
What is dark matter and why does it, well, matter? If anyone knows, it's elementary particle physicist Bernard Sadoulet, currently the director of the UC system-wide Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. In his lecture "Shedding Light on the Dark Side of the Universe," Sadoulet discusses the dark energy comprising 95 percent of our universe, specifically recent efforts to detect Weakly Interactive Massive Particles — that's right, WIMPs! Go dark on Saturday, Dec. 17, in 100 Genetics & PlantBiologyBuilding, UC Berkeley campus. 11 a.m.-noon, free. SCroft@astro.berkeley.edu or Events.Berkeley.edu. — Stefanie Kalem


Plus...

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