Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

Andromache — Think you've got it tough romantically? Consider young Orestes. He's in love with Ermione, who is pledged to Pyrrhus, who is in love with the enslaved Andromache. She, however, still loves Hector, which is problematic because he is dead, having been killed by Pyrrhus' pop Achilles. And Andromache is having a problem getting over the part where Achilles dragged her dead husband around Troy by the heels after besting him in combat. In CentralWorks' adaptation of Racine's Andromache, the title character will find a way to protect her young son, even if it means marrying a man she doesn't want so her son has a new dad, and then killing herself. CentralWorks has modernized the language and taken some liberties with the plot in this revival of its 1994 work, but the company is truer to Racine than Racine was to Euripides in this white-hot story of love and betrayal. This version fits neatly into the larger story of Greeks versus Trojans that has been playing out around the East Bay's theaters for several years. Racine made Andromache more about mortal frailty and less about divine manipulation than his Greek antecedents did, which gives this Andromache immediacy and vigor while still feeling larger than life. — L.D. (Through November 19 at the Berkeley City Club; CentralWorks.org or 510-558-1381.)

Copenhagen — In the fall of 1941, a German physicist traveled to Nazi-occupied Denmark to consult with his old Jewish teacher and mentor. The details are fuzzy, yet the meeting might have changed the course of human history. The German was Werner Heisenberg, he of quantum physics' famous "Uncertainty Principle," and the older Dane was Niels Bohr, a giant of atomic physics. What did they talk about? German research into atomic energy? The likelihood Americans were building a bomb of their own? Nobody quite knows, and that's what encouraged British playwright Michael Frayn to write Copenhagen, a memory play that begins long after both men and Bohr's wife and secretary, Margarethe, are dead. The three characters hash and rehash why, exactly, Heisenberg came calling, and in the process both drop some science and examine the limits of guilt and complicity. Frayn is unstoppable, and he thinks big. Copenhagen is serious, talky, and static, just like Frayn's Benefactors, which Aurora audiences might remember from 2002. While things never break into the merriment of his Noises Off, they get interesting once the men have gotten over the stiffness of their initial reunion, and then especially in the second act. Copenhagen is a dense mystery that will resonate with viewers curious about science, history, and how we justify our actions. — L.D. (Through November 5 at the Town Hall Theatre of Lafayette; THTC.org or 925-283-1557.)

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; DLRCA.org or 925-943-7469.)

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