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1001

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 20 2010
Price: $15-$30

A concatenation of pop culture references (to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Jorge Louis Borges, techno music, instant messaging, and Flaubert, among other things), racy sex scenes, and slapstick humor helps lighten the tone of Jason Grote's 1001, an accelerated, pastiche version of the ancient Islamic folktale One Thousand and One Nights. Director Jonathan Spector manages to cram this wildly ambitious play into the confines of the Berkeley City Club, using curtains, doors, and lighting effects (provided by the talented Drew Kaufman) to suggest extension beyond the stage. Anthony Nemirovsky is terrific as the bumbling King Shahriyar, a deflower-er and killer of virgins who shuffles about his palace, trying to remember the names of things (important things, like, you know, "Allah."). He doubles as Alan, the sweet, forgetful, well-intentioned boyfriend of an Arab-American activist named Dahna (Rachel Rajput, who also plays Scheherazade). As a couple, they stand in for the Israel-Palestine conflict at large. She accuses him of hegemony, he's self-conscious about "Othering" her -- they're always on the outs. Nemirovsky is every bit the rumpled hipster, and Rajput's well-toned, dancer body compliments him nicely. Aleph Ayin, Katie Tkel, Lance Gardner, and Michael Barrett Austin fill out the cast, each playing multiple roles. Violinist Dina Maccabee provides a collage of sound to create wild shifts in time and space. It's a fast play, well-timed (by accident) to coincide with recent news events. Through June 20 at BerkeleyCity Club(2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley). $15-$30. JustTheater.org

— Rachel Swan

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