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X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story)

Through March 1
510-647-2949
X’s and O’s  (A Football  Love Story)
Despite football’s immense popularity (114 million people watched the latest Super Bowl), it seems like almost every week some new scandal befalls the game — whether it’s Deflategate, Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in the face, or, as Berkeley Rep’s (2025 Addison St.) fantastic show X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story) illuminates, just how common it is for its players to experience traumatic, life-altering brain injuries. For the documentary-style production, Jenny Mercein (whose father is Chuck Mercein, of Green Bay Packers fame) and playwright KJ Sanchez conducted more than fifty interviews with players both past and present, as well as families, neurologists, coaches, fans, and other experts. And indeed, much of the play’s dialogue comes verbatim from said interviews. Adding to the stories are a timeline of the NFL’s history (which is quite riveting, despite being peppered with misogyny, racism, and Teddy Roosevelt’s weird speeches about virility), as well as video montages and a subplot involving three football fans and their heated, differing viewpoints. Even the “Monday Night Football” theme song makes an appearance. With the help of Tony Taccone’s fluent direction, a slick, ESPN-type set design, and a short runtime (85 minutes), X’s and O’s paints a complicated portrait of both the light and dark sides of the sport. $29–$79
Berkeley Repertory Theatre 2025 Addison St., Berkeley (map)

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The Lyons

Through March 8
510-843-4822
The Lyons
The Lyons is as beastly as its feline almost-namesake suggests — replete with instances of death, domestic violence, homophobia, addiction, and the kind of emotional mauling that comes with enduring a lifetime of small regrets. The dark farce of a play — written by Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, Raised in Captivity), and directed with scalpel precision by Barbara Damashek — made its Bay Area debut recently at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre (2081 Addison St.). Silver, whose work is often compared to the likes of Joe Orton and Edward Albee, prefers his comedy with teeth (or “high wit and low self-esteem,” as he’s quoted in the program notes as saying), and even the lines that draw the biggest laughs (and there are many) are smothered in a kind of sadness gravy (the best kind, in my opinion). In the end, the play’s tightly wound ruthlessness and galloping pace leave few moments for much reflection, but afterward, you might find yourself with an unknowable ache (and perhaps a renewed relief that your family is not like the Lyons). $32-$50
Aurora Theatre 2081 Addison St., Berkeley (map)

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