Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

Bingo - How much you like bingo is probably a good indicator of how much you're going to like a musical about bingo. At an hour and a half with no intermission, it breezes through a flimsy plot about old friends torn asunder by petty stubbornness. Our heroines are a trio of types more than characters: the hard-edged, bullish boss lady (Ginger Riley), the superstitious eccentric (Tami Dahbura) and the unlucky-in-love bingo bimbo (Maureen McVerry). Cynthia Myers is sunny in flashbacks as the exiled friend, and Ariela Morgenstern a bright ingenue as her daughter come to make peace. The jokes are corny, the songs a retro pastiche of brassy old-time Broadway, and the highlight is part of a whole other show: Morgenstern's bombastic "Ratched's Lament" from a made-up musical of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (Through April 21 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts; or 925-943-7469.)

Blood Wedding - Federico García Lorca's plays aren't staged nearly often enough, in part because they're difficult to pull off. The dialogue is largely poetic declarations, the characters more archetypes than personalities, so it's a delicate balance not to make them cartoonish, as is evident in the Shotgun production. Erin Gilley and Ryan O'Donnell aptly embody the nervous bride and groom, but John-Paul Goorjian as romantic rival Leonardo is pure soap opera. Part of the problem in Evren Odcikin's flamenco-themed staging is too many distractions, from stomping scene changes to the cast seated onstage as a rowdy audience. The stylized staging works better in the second act than the first, giving mythic weight to the manhunt led by the bloodthirsty moon (embodied commandingly by Dawn Scott), a striking slo-mo duel, and its tragic aftermath. (Through April 22 at the Ashby Stage; or 510-841-6500.)

Death of a Salesman - Traveling Jewish Theatre artistic director Aaron Davidman's staging sets out to bring to the surface a Jewish identity implicit in Arthur Miller's classic of American drama, but that's ultimately incidental next to how rare it is that the play is done so well. Most astonishing is Corey Fischer's Willy Loman, with all the stubborn pride and insistent insecurities visible in his slumped frame, getting more painfully hunched in on itself as the play goes on, and audible in his incessant, animated ramblings to people both in the room and in his head. Jeri Lynn Cohen has a warm, mild presence as wife Linda, though the weight of the years is missing in her performance. Michael Navarra gives son Biff's resentment and outsize physicality the right amount of underlying solicitude, and John Sousa is a wonderfully twitchy bundle of nerves, lusts, and aspirations as younger son Happy. (Through April 29 at Traveling Jewish Theatre and May 24-June 10 at the Julia Morgan; or 415-522-0786.)


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