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."

Reviews by Lisa Drostova and Sam Hurwitt

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. The four couples' connection turns out to be pretty obvious, but until then there's no connecting tissue other than the fact that we all have grandparents whose stories we like to romanticize. -- 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 -- In case anyone needed reminding, 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." Hoyle 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. The material is funny -- 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.)


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