Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

As You Like It — In Shakespeare's tale of love, banishment, and cross-dressing, the court is full of bored, bitchy thrill-seekers, the forest of Arden with disgraced but honorable nobles and their wayward children. In one of the most physically engaging shows I've seen Jon Moscone direct, As You Like It is filled with charming moments as the actors navigate the leaf-strewn and tree-heavy set. — L.D. (Through October 15 at the Bruns Amphitheater; or 510-548-9666.)

Colorado — Fresh from a three-month run of his Hunter Gatherers with Killing My Lobster in San Francisco, local playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb celebrates another world premiere, this time in Impact Theatre's pizza-parlor basement. If the narrative about the worried family of a missing teen beauty queen often feels thin (especially the meandering conclusion), the dialogue contains enough belly laughs to carry the show, and newcomer Elkhanah Pulitzer's production delivers them handily. Adrienne Papp is a knockout as the MIA terror in a tiara, all sugar and spite and vicious superficiality. — S.H. (Through October 28 at La Val's Subterranean; or 510-464-446.)

Criminal Genius & Adult Entertainment — UC Berkeley's theater department opens its season with Suburban Motel, George F. Walker's six one-acts set in the same seedy motel room, in three installments of two plays apiece. This first pair, directed by Christopher Herold, is heavy on neo-noir sad sacks in violent situations and ruminations on hopelessness. Walker spins his wheels in hard-boiled nihilism both in getting things going and wrapping them up, while Melpomene Katakalos' marvelous set threatens to steal the show, complete with littered lawns, a concrete path, and a maze of blinking signs. The grim farce Criminal Genius (an unrelated production of which will open TheatreFIRST's season October 27) is complicated by actors the same age playing father-and-son goons, and power plays that would be more convincing if the players were at all imposing. Collegiate actors playing embittered fortysomethings is effective enough in the maudlin Adult Entertainment, enlivened by Brant Rotnem's bright-eyed delivery as self-destructive cop Donny. — S.H. (Through October 8 at Zellerbach Playhouse; or 510-642-9925.)

The Marriage of Figaro — At CenterREP, the scenery trembles in fear for its life when Andrew Hurteau takes the stage. In the recent Laughter on the 23rd Floor, he punched several holes in the set. In the current giddy Marriage of Figaro, he just chews on it — literally — taking off a furry purple hunk in his mouth. But then that's the kind of show this is — a take-no-prisoners farce that cheerfully skewers the law, the nobility, and the battle of the sexes. It's a froth of schemes and pratfalls. — L.D. (Through October 7 at the Dean Lesher Center; or 925-943-SHOW.)

Mother Courage — From its casting to Rachel Haucks' set design, this show is like stepping back to prewar Berlin. Making it look so much like the original might have reinforced how Brecht's antiwar protest is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Set during the Thirty Years' War, Brecht's story of an enterprising woman making a life for herself and her motley children by selling things to the combatants is always going to feel long. But Peterson has some sharp actors, especially Ivonne Coll as Courage and Katie Barrett as camp follower Yvette. — L.D. (Through October 22 at the Berkeley Rep; or 888-427-8849.)


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