Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Let's Go to the Movies -- It's no surprise that a community theater in Lafayette thought it would be a good idea to put together a musical revue of cinematic songs as a season closer and call it Let's Go to the Movies. What is a surprise is that this light fare turns out to be a hilarious evening's entertainment that the most jaded urbanite could enjoy. This is not because the aforementioned concept is some stroke of genius -- far from it -- but because of a happy accident. The director originally slated to create the show for the Town Hall Theatre Company bailed at the last minute, and Venus Rising founder Kevin Morales was called in to come up with a new show as quickly as possible -- the catch being that it had to feature songs from films and be called Let's Go to the Movies. So what does Morales do? He writes a play about a guy who has to write a musical revue called Let's Go to the Movies. If the first act is funny, the second really rolls out the belly laughs, building on the first and on itself to marvelous effect. The songs are worked naturally enough into various audition and brainstorming scenes, and if some of them are pretty cheesy, it doesn't matter, because they're rendered in such an over-the-top way. It ain't Shakespeare, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of musical comedy as promised, and then some. -- S.H. (Through July 18 at the Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org)

Master Class -- The life of Maria Callas is still studded with mysteries. One of the greatest opera singers of all time, she redefined the form. Conductors fell over themselves pulling out operas that had languished in obscurity because there was finally someone capable of singing them. She was a consummate artist who worked incredibly hard on every aspect of her craft, yet her artistry was often overshadowed by public distortion of her troubled personal life. Her troubled childhood with a domineering mother, her marriage to the much older Giovanni Battista Meneghini and his abuse of his position as her manager, her affair with Aristotle Onassis, the unproven rumors of a love child; all of these things fascinated the public. Equally titillating were the charges that Callas was unreasonable, temperamental, capricious; that she canceled performances at a whim and deliberately sowed rivalry with other singers. Master Class integrates some of the details of her life without getting too far into the soup of what did and did not really happen. For all of the drama, mystery, and sadness around Callas' life, McNally's homage is relaxed, humorous, and open. While there are a few opera in-jokes, they're not off-putting to the rookie. And Rita Moreno captures Callas effortlessly, down to the precise hand gestures that recall photos of Callas in performance and the beautifully modulated voice. -- L.D. (Through July 18 at the Berkeley Rep; 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org)

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