Even in their lean-and-hungry years, nothing seemed to daunt Berkeley's Shotgun Players. Shakespeare? Brecht? Euripides? A three-hour play about early-20th-century Russian theater (The Death of Meyerhold)? Bring it on. Last year's move to permanent digs has only emboldened them, judging by their latest production, Arabian Night, an outlandish thriller by German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig. The story begins on a sweltering Berlin evening. In a seventh-floor apartment, a young woman, Fatima, waits for her lover, Khalil. Her roommate, Franziska, showers while Karpati, a neighbor, spies through an open window. Franziska leaves the shower and falls into a deep sleep. Meanwhile, the superintendent, Lomeier, roams the building searching for a mysterious water leak. As the men make their various ways to the apartment, Schimmelpfennig weaves a nightmarish fantasia of crossed paths, erotic longings, and magical transformations. Director Andrea Weber stages the play almost like a dance, or as she puts it, "a dream ballet." At various points, the actors freeze or move in slow motion in response to the transitions of the text. Settings shift through time and space. One character steps through a doorway into a desert; another gets trapped in a bottle. Rather than try to represent such effects literally, Weber relies on evocative digital projections by Melanie Hofmann and sound design by Daniel Bruno. "One of the challenges I've been up against is stepping away from the need to create a concrete illustration of something," she says.
Despite Schimmelpfennig's rock-star reputation overseas, this will be the first West Coast presentation of one of his plays. The production will give the audience an opportunity to sample a European style of theater, opines Weber: "It's an aesthetic that embraces abstraction by using other ways of communicating -- for instance, using abstract movement to reflect the inner experience of the characters." She adds, "Of course, there's also full-frontal female nudity, which is very German."
Arabian Night runs at the Ashby Stage June 2-July 10. Previews are Tuesday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 1. ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500. Chris Ulbrich
No Left Feet
The 25-year-old Moving Arts Dance Company returns to the DLRCA this Sunday with a confident and diverse program by resident choreographers Viktor Kabaniaev, Michael Lowe, and Anandha Ray. Perhaps most intriguing is Kabaniaev's "Three Songs," for which Moving Arts resident composer Sarah Michael updated three folk works by Belarusan composer Vladimir Zenovich. Zenovich set the songs on Gramnitsy, his choral group, and Kabaniaev arranged a work wherein dancers move in and out of the onstage chorus. Other works on display include the world premiere of Lowe's "Ghost (Life Unfinished)," inspired by the Chinese folk singer Teresa Teng, and Ray's "Shakti," depicting women as healers. 925-943-SHOW, MovingArtsDance.org -- Stefanie Kalem
If the Shrew Fits
Ah, the humor of the Bard -- the irony that an unmarriageable "shrew" is really no more than a strong-willed woman needin' a bit of taming by love's hand. Subterranean Shakespeare takes this construct by the roots and pulls hard with its new production of The Taming of the Shrew, which Canadian Tom Bentley, new to the Bay Area, infuses with Promise Keeper-type right-wingers, biblical masks, and barbershop harmonies. This dark interpretation plays at the Berkeley Art Center in Live Oak Park, 1275 Walnut St., through June 24 (no show June 2). Call 510-276-3871 for reservations and other details. -- Stefanie Kalem
You probably didn't realize it, but Sunday is United Nations World Environment Day, and to celebrate it -- and to showcase the eco-artwork, photography, and poetry created by Bay Area middle- and high-school students -- the traveling Visuals and Voices show kicks off its tour this Sunday at Jack London Square in Oakland. See live music, poetry readings, spoken-word performances, and break dancing, presented during the usual Jack London Square Farmers' Market hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's free. "Visuals and Voices" is a project of Earth Team, an Environmental Network for Educators and Teens. For more info, phone 510-290-7654. -- Kelly Vance
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