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Shrek the Musical

Saturdays, 1 & 6 p.m. and Sundays, 12 & 5 p.m. Continues through Aug. 3
Typical fairy tales are often snoozers, full of froufrou princesses that sing to rodents and white-bread princes whose only “charms” seem to be providing last-minute lip service to their comatose girlfriends. We know who the bad guy is because he or she always wears some kind of cape. What’s great about Shrek the Musical, the latest production from Berkeley Playhouse, is that it mocks those conventions at the same time that it revels in them, with spirited dance numbers and infectious glee. The songs are as uplifting as they are sly and clever, with book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire, and music by Jeanine Tesori. It’s a show full of substance, and despite its goal of subverting the fairy tale genre, of course, love prevails, good triumphs over evil, and the ending is sure to leave you living happily ever after — or at least for the next several hours. $17-$60
Julia Morgan Center for the Arts 2640 College Ave., Berkeley (map)


Splathouse Double Feature with The Sadist and Eegah!

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 9
Impact Theatre’s Splathouse Double Feature with The Sadist and Eegah! is many things — a film, a live performance, a recreation of two real, cheesy, low-budget horror flicks from the Sixties, and a parody of those flicks. It’s sort of Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque, but with theatrics in place of the humorous commentary. As a production, Splathouse involves the most mockable elements from B movies — the overacting, the discontinuity of scenes, the crappy special effects, etc. — and combines them with a thespian’s flair. While Splathouse’s re-envisioning of two silly horror films is certainly tackled with eye-bulging aplomb, the rub is that they don’t take it far enough. In the first play, The Sadist, partly, this is the fault of the original film itself, which is generally lauded as a decent thriller for its time. Plus, the film enjoys cinematography by one of the most influential Directors of Photography in history, Vilmos Zsigmond. In other words, it was perhaps not very amenable to satirical reshaping as a condensed play. Eegah!, Splathouse’s second feature, does this much better. The opportunities for humor were rife, and live show directors P.D. and the Bug took full advantage of the film’s circus-y overcompensation. The screening portions of the production, while perhaps ultimately unnecessary, were spot-on, and Edwin Fernando Gonzalez captured the mise-en-scènes faithfully, down to the creepy black-and-white close-ups of The Sadist and Eegah!’s color-saturated California landscapes. And the cheesy props and amateurish acting all add to the production’s entertaining spoofiness. All in all, Splathouse is a fun, if at times lightweight, riff on a bygone movie genre that lends itself well to theatrics, silliness, and lowbrow shock value. $10-$25
LaVal's Subterranean Theatre 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley (map)


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