Thumbing their noses at an entertainment machine that exploits the myth that only the new is worth pursuing, theaters regularly mount classics that address 21st-century realities. Such is the case with UC Berkeley's Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, which presents Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Zellerbach Playhouse. "Everyone in TDPS is devoted to the idea that central works probe deep and profound ideas that are always relevant," says the play's director, Christopher Herold. The plot of his favorite Chekhov play revolves around three sisters from an elegant military family. Stranded in a backwater military town, the sisters long to return to the Moscow they associate with everything that is good, cultured, and of value. Through a series of what Herold terms "non-events," the play follows them over the course of three and a half years, focusing on their interactions with the townspeople who come in and out of their lives.
"Three Sisters explores what it means to experience the travails of daily life," Herold says. "None of the people in the play is in grand positions, but we come to realize that their lives are as painful, joyous, and important as anyone else's." Herold praises Chekhov's ambiguity. "He doesn't see life as a black-and-white affair. Instead, he captures exterior realities while conveying the internal, emotional movement of life." The sisters may end up stuck in the provinces, but their interaction with the play's eleven other characters constantly commands attention.
The play's student cast "will bring a beautiful energy to their work," Herold explains. "There's a joy in their work; it isn't just a job for them. They're really attached to the creative endeavor, and their acting is filled with wonderful, youthful energy." Equal praise is reserved for Paul Schmidt's relevant translation and the modernized production. With sets by Kent Dorsey, costumes by Raquel Barreto, and lighting by David Elliot -- theater professionals who design all over the world -- Herold looks forward to a fresh take on Chekhov's "large, funny, quick, and tragic" masterwork.
Visit Theater.Berkeley.edu or call 510-642-9925 for performance times and ticket prices. Jason Victor Serinus
Hip and Giggles
The Stork Club continues to surprise -- though it didn't host this year's 8x8x8 dance event (that honor went to the Starry Plough this time around), it has opened its rock 'n' roll environs up, in recent weeks, to a weekly roots hoedown, an art collective's fashion show fund-raiser, and, this Saturday, the latest installment of Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach's Smug Shift Comedy Show, promising not-your-mama's-comedy comedy. Weinbach and Kasher will both do the stand-up one-two, as will Kevin Avery, Bridget Schwartz, Alex Koll, and Kevin Camia, followed by DJ Platurn spinning hip-hop and funk. Laugh your ironic ass off starting at 9:30 p.m. $6, 21 and up. 510-444-6174. -- Stefanie Kalem
Canadian troupe Green Thumb Theatre got its start in 1975 producing such lighthearted children's numbers as The Richmond Ditchmonster. But four years later, the company took a turn for the serious, tackling divorce and its aftermath in Hilary's Birthday; from there, the course was set. Green Thumb has since addressed everything from war to learning disabilities, all in the name of educating kids about social issues via live theater. Their latest production, Joan MacLeod's The Shape of a Girl, is a one-girl show about teenage bullying taken to extremes. Give your sixth- to twelfth-grader a taste of dramatic reality at Pleasanton's Amador Theater. 7 p.m. Wednesday. 925-931-3444, www.civicartstickets.org -- Stefanie Kalem
At the start of Don Juan in Hell, the remarkably well-behaved Doña Ana is surprised to find herself in that happenin' postdeath hotspot. When her ex-boyfriend Don Juan -- who killed her father in a duel -- shows her the high road to Heaven, and Dad himself shows up in the form of a statue to convince her to stay, things get a little messy. And, of course, the Devil is there. See a staged reading of the piece, which is actually the two-hour third act of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, at Masquers (105 Park Pl., Point Richmond) Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. $10, 510-232-3888. -- Stefanie Kalem
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