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The Arsonists 

When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 12 2013
Price: $16-$60

In this morally concerned farce, two destructive characters worm their way into the home of bourgeois couple Birderman and Babbette who, loathe to be seen as lacking in liberal goodwill, reluctantly make them right at home. Written in 1953 by Swiss playwright Max Frisch, the work is structured as a parable about appeasement in response to the Nazi rise to power and the 1948 communist coup in Czechoslovakia. Bay Area director Mark Jackson, using an updated script by Alistair Beaton, attempts to shuttle this parable into the present, but without much success. A selective mix of midcentury and contemporary reference points creates a sense of disjuncture between Frisch's world and the present -- something that becomes all the more palpable during several breakings of the fourth wall (one includes a CalShakes reference). The play feels dated, the production is drab, and the play's politics short circuit at best. On the bright side, a few good performances keep it funny. The Arsonists runs through May 12 at the Aurora Theatre Company (2081 Addison St., Berkeley). 510-843-4822 or

— Alex Bigman


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