Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Reviews by Lisa Drostova and Sam Hurwitt

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."

Casino! -- It's hard to fathom what made librettist/producer Judith Offer and composer Joyce Whitelaw think that a musical about Jerry Brown trying to turn Oakland's Fox Theatre into an Indian casino might be a good idea. Mayor J.B. (Ralph Scott) spouts Latin non sequiturs and does tai chi while sidekick Jack Az (C. Conrad Cady) makes Pepé Le Pew moves on the ladies. The heroes and villains are too mild-mannered, and the well-meaning preservationists' master plan is to have a children's choir sing an insipid song about the Fox as the playground of yesteryear's pashas and maharajas on public access television. Rebecca Offer's costumes are nicely swanky, and the singing ranges from quite good (Tanya Fermin as the city manager, Marian Partee as the choir director) to Florence Foster Jenkins-style warbling. There are some mildly amusing moments, but when the hokey love songs start it's hard to tell which laughs are intentional. -- S.H. (Through March 12 at the Oakland YWCA; 510-444-8521.)

Dublin Carol -- This new three-character play from Irish playwright Conor McPherson getting a warm, loving treatment at the Aurora is the bittersweet story of an older man who believes deep down that he has done nothing to earn anyone's respect, and two young people who spend the day before Christmas forcing him to reexamine everything from his behavior to his relationships. In one sense, not much happens; in another, everything does. Balancing bitterness and a world-weary humor, John slowly, engagingly spins out the story of his descent into alcoholism. The question becomes, will he do the right thing? Director Joy Carlin answers it gently and with skill in Aurora's quiet, rosily lit production. -- L.D. (Through March 6 at the Aurora; or 510-843-4822.)

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth -- You may think you know Macbeth. But until you've seen this play, you haven't really felt all the suspense, treachery, or deep silliness. The authors of this nutty, fun show thought of every possible thing that could go wrong in a community theater production. -- L.D. (Through February 26 at the Masquers Playhouse; or 510-232-4031.)

Fêtes de la Nuit -- Fart jokes, pink feathers, exaggerated Frawnch accents, and a stageful of actors aggressively smoking cigarettes: It's "Let's Make Fun of the French Day" over at the Berkeley Rep, but it's so silly and cute it's hard to get all Gallic about it. This is not France as it is, but our fantasy of France. In this pairing of director Les Waters with Charles Mee's new Fêtes de la Nuit, it's frothy and visually delightful. Fêtes is a sweet, creamy little dessert of a show, perfect for springtime. -- L.D. (Through February 27 at the Berkeley Rep; or 510-647-2949.)


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