The phrase The Ugly American conjures up countless unsavory images -- everything from bloated tourists in ill-fitting shorts, oversize sunglasses, hideous flower-print short-sleeve shirts, and too much suntan lotion shouting at each other atop sacred Buddhist shrines, to American GIs giving candy to little kids while raping their older sisters. But for comedic monologist Mike Daisey, the label refers to himself and his first outlandish adventures abroad.
Daisey's new tale about his hilarious experiences as a greenhorn exchange student in London runs Wednesdays through Sundays, July 24 to August 13 on Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage (tickets: 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org). The monologue begins as Daisey, who had never ventured beyond his backwoods Maine hometown of three hundred, arrives in London to study acting. After his teachers proclaim that his true talent will emerge only when he ceases being funny, Daisey sidesteps Shakespeare to associate himself with a postmodern, neofeminist theater headquartered in an abandoned church on the edge of town. Falling in love with an actress whose other profession involves hooking far more than audience members, Daisey treads a path that has so far taken his monologue to Seattle, the 2005 Spoleto Festival, and the microphones of the BBC.
If you saw Daisey's acclaimed appearance in 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @Amazon.com last summer at Berkeley Rep, you may recall that the show ran Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater for six months. It later traveled to Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, Edinburgh, and London. Daisey then launched his series All Stories Are Fiction at New York City's P.S. 122, developing thirteen monologues in as many weeks. The creator of I Miss the Cold War and Wasting Your Breath is about to shoot his film Layover in Copenhagen. Amid it all, he is heard regularly on NPR's Day to Day and on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. "There are some stories you have to wait to tell," he surmises, "and The Ugly American is one of them. It's the story of a young man making the kind of stupid decisions that only the young can make."
On Sunday, August 14 at 7 p.m., Daisey presents a special Berkeley Rep workshop on his still-evolving Monopoly!, a show about genius inventor Nikolai Tesla's war with Thomas Edison over electricity. The monologue somehow manages to encompass the Microsoft antitrust case and Wal-Mart. Reaction to its recent Off-Broadway run (a New York Times critic praised the "brilliantly spun narrative" from this "master storyteller") should inspire a sold-out house. Jason Victor Serinus
Comedians 'n' beer
When Bobby Salem (no relation to the Puritan witch trials) and Ed Hazzard (no relation to the Dukes of) take the mic Saturday night at the Englander Sports Pub in San Leandro (101 Parrott St., 8 p.m.), batten down the hatches for gale-force guffaws. The dapper Salem is a vet of cable TV's A&E Comedy, and verbal roustabout Hazzard has appeared on the Me and My Brother Show. They're hosted by comic impresario Michael Booker, whose Comedy by Michael has put stand-up back in the bars, where many comedy fans say it really belongs. $15 door. Go to ComedybyMichael.com for details. Kelly Vance
What, No Geek?
Brion Nuda Rosch's Making Breaking Making consists of the artist asking visitors to throw a ball at a shelf of ceramic vases. For his Portrait of Your Stupid Face, Brian Storts does caricatures of gallery visitors for $3 each. It's not a carnival, folks, it's an art show. Form/Reform, at the Oakland Art Gallery today (Wednesday) through July 30, is the gallery's very first attempt at staging performance art in a visual arts space. Like Kathleen Quillian and Gilbert Guerrero's California Dreaming, with its slide show of their travels along the San Andreas Fault line. 199 Kahn's Alley, downtown Oakland (just off Frank Ogawa Plaza), For more info: OaklandArtGallery.org -- Kelly Vance
Will's Wit Whet
"The dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits." So wrote Shakespeare in As You Like It, one of his cleverest comedies, featuring numerous plot twists, cross-dressing, clowns, dukes, shepherds, lovers lost and found, and a cameo appearance by Hymen, the god of marriage. Its most oft-quoted line is probably "all the world's a stage," but "the pancakes were naught and the mustard was good" seems just as timeless. Sharpen your wit with a new Valley Shakes production at Retzlaff Vineyards in Livermore (1356 S. Livermore Ave.), which previews Thursday, opens Friday, and runs until August 13. For tickets, visit ValleyShakes.org -- Eric K. Arnold
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