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The Pirates of Penzance 

When: Saturdays, 2 & 7 p.m., Sundays, 12 & 5 p.m. and Fridays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 1 2012
Price: $17-$35
BerkeleyPlayhouse.org

Like many children's productions, Jon Tracy's new punk-rock version of the Savoy opera Pirates of Penzanceis remarkably clever and knowing. Perhaps that's a matter of artistic integrity, since Tracy would never dream of dumbing down his plays just to mollify a young audience. But it could also be a matter of pleasing the implied adult audience, and convincing them that musical theater is a far better use of two hours than, say, plopping your kid in front of the boob tube. Many would concur, especially since Tracy's Penzance might be more entertaining for adults than for kids. He altered the script but retained some of the archaic and lewd language (including a reference to orphan molestation, and a song about carousing on the high seas), and didn't shy away from prurience -- John Paul "JP" Gonzalez, who plays the male lead, wears a pair of short, tattered pirate shorts that show off his Tina Turner legs. More importantly, though, Tracy poached influences from all parts of the pop culture ecosystem: punk rock, Robocop, Jean-Pierre Jeunet films, and even the 1983 film by Joseph Papp. He's evidently not worried about the kids understanding everything; what's more crucial is that this Penzance stands alone, as art. Through Apr. 1 at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College Ave., Berkeley). $17-$35. BerkeleyPlayhouse.org

— Rachel Swan

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