Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

Colorado — Local playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb celebrates this world premiere 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. — S.H. (Through October 28 at La Val's Subterranean; or 510-464-446.)

Les Enfants Terribles — Oakland Opera Theater knows its way around Philip Glass. Now it is taking on Les Enfants Terribles, the third of his trilogy of operas, based on Cocteau's 1929 novel. Les Enfants is a fever dream of a tragedy involving a disturbingly close brother and sister wrapped up in their own abstract world of hidden treasures and cruel little games. As they grow up, they draw others into their circle, who fall for them but can't penetrate their private language, and are reduced to the role of anguished hangers-on as the siblings languish in self-destructive solipsism. The story is told mostly through dance, which is interesting here because the original choreography has been replaced by that of Danny Nguyen, who performs in the piece along with his Nguyen Dance Company. — S.H. (Through October 22 at the Oakland Opera Theater; or 510-763-1146.)

Love Is a Dream House in Lorin — Shotgun commissioned Marcus Gardley to write a play based on interviews with residents of Berkeley's Lorin district. The story centers on a young mixed-race couple buying the rundown house of the title. Shotgun has long battled uneven acting, and while the current show is no exception, for some reason, it's not as obvious as you would expect in a large cast with so many untried performers. It's also one of the most diverse casts to grace an East Bay stage in a long time, appropriate for a show that's not only a play, but a celebration of and for the community. — L.D. (Through October 29 at the Ashby Stage; or 510-841-6500.)

Mother Courage — Director Lisa Peterson uses the same David Hare translation of Brecht's Mother Courage that Shotgun did a few years ago, but that's where the similarity ends. From her 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. — L.D. (Through October 22 at the Berkeley Rep; or 888-427-8849.)

Thoroughly Modern MIllie — Diablo Light Opera Company presents the East Bay premiere of this amusing but lightweight Tony-winning musical, based on the Julie Andrews flick about a small-town gal in New York City in 1922 determined to marry her boss out of mercenary pragmatism, with a white slave-trading ring for good measure. The new songs by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan are generally pleasant Jazz Age pastiche, but overly convoluted and largely forgotten by the time the reprise rolls around. — S.H. (Through November 4 at the Dean Lesher Center; or 925-943-7469.)

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