Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater.

For complete, up-to-date East Bay theater listings, look under "Billboard" on the home page for the "Select Category" pulldown, then select "Theater & Performing Arts."

Aya de León Is Running for President -- In a dry and desperate election season, de León's latest one-woman show is a much-needed shot in the arm, containing powerful indictments of imperialism, homophobia, child abuse, internalized oppression, and "shame-based theology"; funny and rousing odes to sensitive guys and the hip-hop generation; and devastating reflections on topics ranging from Vieques to R. Kelly. A collection of politically-themed performance poems strung together through unusually inspiring stump speeches -- the kind of right-on truth-telling we wish we could hear from actual candidates once in a while -- it's more loose-knit than her recent Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip-Hop but energizing in all the right ways. Performed in excerpts and full shows in community centers and churches throughout the month, this show isn't about acting, it's about taking action. "Since this is supposed to be a representative democracy," she says, "it's time for us to represent." Amen to that. -- S.H. (Through October 29 at various venues; or 510-273-2473)

Groucho: A Life in Revue -- It's not a one-man show, but it fits the profile: An old guy waxes sentimental about days gone by, offering glimpses of himself in his prime along the way. Jerry Motta makes a pretty good Groucho, though he's more convincing with his props: the mustache, the cigar, the walk. The interspersed greatest-hits routines are well-chosen but remind us that no one could really sell this material the way the Marx Brothers could. Steve Haupt and Joel Roster feel like amiable understudies as Chico and Harpo, as if playing the fading ghosts of the brothers. Sarah Andrews Reynolds performs admirably as an array of starlets, interviewers, wives, and Margaret Dumont. A number of the old punch lines still pack some punch, but it's the mawkish moments that really make us miss Groucho. No doubt he would have made fun of them beautifully. -- S.H. (Through October 31 at Town Hall Theatre; or 925-283-1557)

La Cage aux Folles -- Some bright day, gay marriage will be unshakably legal in this country, and works such as the glittery 1983 musical La Cage aux Folles will be charming but dated artifacts. In the meantime, much of this musical is still relevant and surprisingly touching underneath the sequins and satin that adorn the performers at Georges' French Riviera nightclub, La Cage aux Folles. Under the flamboyant dance numbers and shoulder-spanning feathered headdresses, there is still a wrenching story about a son thoughtlessly asking a loving parent to do something unconscionable. The actors and creative staff of the Diablo Light Opera Company manage to capture the glitz and the grief in a funny, well-paced production. Props to DLOC for a fun, exuberant production that invites audiences (gay, straight, or otherwise) to make the antigay attitudes lampooned in La Cage a thing of the past. (Through November 6 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts; or 925-943-7469)


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