On Stage 

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."

Becoming Memories-- This sentimental journey into the past by Arthur Giron has its moments -- some funny, some romantic, some tragic -- but in the end, those moments are all it has. That these moments even work is a credit to a particularly strong cast that manages to sell the melodrama and gentle humor amid all the strained credibility, unrewarded foreshadowing, and mawkish faux-children's voices in Center Rep artistic director Lee Sankowich's production of this nonplay that hops between several geographically scattered couples with seemingly nothing in common except living in the early 20th century. -- S.H. (Through April 23 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts; DLRCA.org or 925-943-7469.)

Blood Relative -- No one knew exactly what would come of Traveling Jewish Theatre's long-awaited Middle East Project, a piece about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created with international artists, but it was a fair bet it wouldn't be all bunnies and daffodils. That's evident from the very first moment of Blood Relative, in which half-Arab, half-Israeli Ibi (similarly Palestinian-Israeli guest artist Ibrahim Miari) staggers in with a bandaged nose and a bloodied shirt and sets about upturning his apartment in impotent rage. In its delicate balance between rib-tickling satire and gut-punching satire, the comedy here proves as thought-provoking as the tragedy. -- S.H. (Through April 17 at the Traveling Jewish Theatre and April 21 through May 1 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts; ATJT.com or 415-285-8080.)

For Better or Worse -- Geoff Hoyle is a very, very funny man. So it's natural that he decided to take on Georges Feydeau, heavyweight French farceur. Hoyle was fascinated by five works from late in the author's life, the one-act "bedroom farces." But he couldn't find exactly what he wanted, so he took two of the one-acts, did a new translation, and has put them together as For Better or Worse, a slapsticky examination of the perils of family life that would ring true in any era set in France just before the Great War. Feydeau created intricately wacky situations that beg to be overplayed in exactly the way Hoyle and costar Sharon Lockwood do. But it's as if there's a piece missing. It's all adorable and saucy, but it could really use a third act, or a little more of a plot. -- L.D. (Through April 24 at the Berkeley Rep; BerkeleyRep.org or 510-647-2949.)

Proof -- This Pulitzer- and Tony-winning 2001 play by David Auburn about the genius daughter and erstwhile caretaker of a recently deceased and long-addled mathematician touches upon some interesting issues of gender and politics in the sciences, if only glancingly, and this lively community theater production directed by John McMullen brings out its humor admirably. Everyone acts about five years younger than the characters they're playing, with the exception of David Coury as the dad, who comes off more like a petulant ten-year-old who doesn't want to eat his peas. But Lily Cedar-Kraft is amusingly girly as the clueless yuppie sister who actually pays the bills, and Carolyn Zola and Georg Herzog have very sexy stage chemistry as the pissed-off prodigy and the goofy math scholar sifting through her father's notebooks. -- S.H. (Through May 7 at Masquers Playhouse; Masquers.org or 510-232-4031.)

String Fever-- Playhouse West has loosed up its programming in recent years, as exemplified by the sweet, funny, String Fever, where an angelic forty-year-old woman and the people in her life talk openly about sex and shit. It's all appropriate in context, and there's much more than bodily functions to Jacquelyn Reingold's wry look at a woman hitting forty and the wall at pretty much the same time. Lily wants a baby, a mate, and professional satisfaction, and it's looking precarious on all three fronts. How she sets out to juggle her desires -- and the shaky mental or physical health of pretty much everyone around her -- sort of takes place in Lily's head, and sort of doesn't. Hers is not a cynical, battle-of-the-sexes struggle, but a thoughtful and open contemplation of the vagaries of love -- and physics. -- L.D. (Through April 23 at the DLRCA; PlayhouseWest.org or 925-943-SHOW).

West Side Story -- The new production of West Side Story helmed by Grant Rosen for the Diablo Light Opera Company shows off Rosen's considerable chops as a choreographer and fight designer. Meshed with excellent visuals -- a dark, gritty set, beautiful lighting, and bright, sherbety dresses with contrasting crinolines -- this take on the Jerome Robbins musical is vividly cinematic. It's also huge. There are often as many as forty people onstage at a time, there's a 21-piece orchestra led by Cheryl Yee Glass, and the set pieces stretch high into the space. The dancing is great and marked by big showy numbers, while the fights are similarly flashy and intense. -- L.D. (Through May 8 at the DLRCA; DLOC.org or 925-943-SHOW).

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