Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Betrayal -- Harold Pinter's Betrayal tells a story of infidelity through nine short, crystalline scenes. Although the pieces are small and the characters subdued, taken as a whole the play is haunting, full of all those moments we so hate living through: the dissolution of a love affair, the realization one has been lied to, the disappointment of youthful dreams. Quiet and contained, Aurora Theatre's production starts out cool and cerebral yet ends visceral and sad. Carrie Paff and Christopher Marshall both radiate carefully controlled pain; neither needs to come out and say, "It's over, isn't it?" -- L.D. (Through July 25 at the Aurora Theater; 510-843-4822 or

Gypsy -- Young Louise, hidden in the shadow of more talented sister June, is forced to dress like the boys with whom she shares the chorus in a vaudeville act. Even after June decamps and Louise is pressed into the leading role, she's dressed in traditionally male garb. Mary Bracken Phillips sums up everything Gypsy Rose Lee had to say about the whirlwind Mama Rose: an ambitious, seductive, and wily dreamer who sacrificed everything to make her children the stars she herself wanted to be. The Willows turns out a bright, lively Gypsy. -- L.D. (Through August 1 at the Willows; 925-798-1300 or

Master Class -- Maria Callas was a consummate artist who worked incredibly hard on every aspect of her craft, yet her artistry was often overshadowed by 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. 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. Rita Moreno captures Callas effortlessly, down to the precise hand gestures and beautifully modulated voice. -- L.D. (Through July 25 at the Berkeley Rep; 510-647-2949 or

My Fair Lady -- Lerner and Loewe's musical adaptation of Pygmalion is a problematic classic, gleefully misogynist in a way Shaw's original never was, and it would be too much to hope that this community theater production would do much to undermine that. But the tale of linguistic taskmaster Henry Higgins molding a "proper woman" out of cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle is still too insidiously charming to resist, and this spirited staging helmed by Michael Manley ensures that you don't resist long. Deborah Banks is a strong Eliza with a good voice, Tom Flynn radiates impish charm as drunkard father Alfred Doolittle, and the performances are generally solid throughout and nicely versatile in the musical numbers, despite some trouble balancing volume levels with the odd instrumentation: keyboards that necessitate an omnipresent speaker buzz, accented by bowed standup bass and occasional taps on a drum kit. Matt Flynn's sets and Jan Koprowski's costumes are top-notch and remarkably evocative. -- S.H. (Through August 14 at Contra Costa Civic Theater; 510-524-6654 or

Showdown at Crawford Gulch -- Probably the most charming of the four San Francisco Mime Troupe productions dedicated to George W. Bush. The Mime Troupe is once again examining the role of the media in furthering a war agenda, but this time it's a little more evenhanded. The working-class residents of Crawford Gulch have peacefully coexisted for many years until two newcomers arrive, one of whom wastes no time fanning the flames of paranoia until neighbors see imaginary threats in every tree. Although the satire is still pointed, this year the preaching is subtler and funnier than in years past. -- L.D. (Through Sept. 26 at area parks; 415-285-1717 or

21 Dog Years -- Mike Daisey worked at and lived to tell the tale. Once his nondisclosure contract finally ran out, he ran wild with the story of his employment there. Brilliantly funny in large patches, contrived and a little awkward in others, Daisey's one-man show 21 Dog Years is a parting shot from a disgruntled ex-employee. -- L.D. (Through August 1 at the Berkeley Rep; 510-647-2949 or

Victor/Victoria -- Victoria Grant is a hungry and broke soprano wandering 1920s Paris. Fortunately she meets the charming Toddy, who has the bright idea of dressing her up as his boyfriend and pawning "Victor" off as "Europe's greatest female impersonator." Where Victoria couldn't get work, Victor goes gangbusters -- at least until the debonair King Marchan shows up and the two fall in love. This production features knockout performances by Vanessa Schepps, Michael O'Brien, and Michelle Pond, though some good bits from the film got excised to tighten up the stage version. Still, this show is fun, especially if you don't know all the surprises in store. -- L.D. (Through July 24 at the Masquers Playhouse; 510-232-3888 or


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