Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekender: The Top Five Things to Do Over the Next Three Days in the East Bay

By Ellen Cushing
Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 8:13 AM

Nurse your St. Pat's hangover Get ready for the weekend by checking out our critics' choices.

It's perfectly natural to feel some apprehension upon hearing the premise of Ruined, Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about rape and genital mutilation in war-ravaged Congo. But don't dismiss it on those grounds alone.

  • Ruined
The theme is more a scaffold than a plot device, and it's fairly cryptic in the play. Women who suffer the worst atrocities of war are "ruined," and it's up to us to divine what the term means. The play's linchpin — a brassy, no-nonsense matriarch named Mama Nadi (Tonye Patano) — runs a brothel that also serves as a safe haven for women refugees. That premise requires a little suspension of conventional morals, but it's borne out in the drama of the play. Nadi's prostitutes have their own room where they read fashion magazines and paint each other's nails. They get fed. To a certain degree, they're protected. Ambiguously drawn, Nadi is both an exploiter and a protector, with a tender, sensual side that she can't always conceal. Loosely based on Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, Ruined benefits from shrewd directing by Liesl Tommy and a profusely detailed set by Clint Ramos. Through April 10 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $17-$73. — Rachel Swan

Richmond's Finest
Richmond's Finest is the name of the pugilistic competition happening Saturday, Mar. 19, at the Richmond Auditorium (403 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond). Part of the USA Boxing competition for Northern California, it'll feature a number of weight divisions competing for the right to move on to the Golden Gloves tournament being held in Indiana later this spring. The fight card is a deep one, with seven hours of boxing on the slate. The event is co-sponsored by the Richmond Police Activities League, which offers an after-school program where young fighters are trained in the sweet science; this weekend, they can show off what they learned in lab. Noon, $10-$15; kids under fifteen must be accompanied by a parent. $10-$15. — Kibby Kleiman

Independent Theater Projects
All things considered, it'd be pretty easy to think that today's youth are more or less doomed, what with the existence of Teen Mom/sexting/Willow Smith. But anyone worried about kids these days might do well to hit up the Hillside Club (2286 Cedar St., Berkeley) tonight and tomorrow, Mar. 18-19, for the latest iteration of Independent Theater Projects. For more than two decades, a small group of annually-rotating Berkeley high school students has been funding, directing, producing, and staging a yearly show of three one-acts, completely independent of school drama programs or private youth theater programs. The lack of adult supervision allows the students to consistently put on plays that feature dark themes, absurdist humor, and preternaturally good acting — and that are much more interesting than what you might typically expect from a high-school production. Each year's selections are kept largely under wraps until show time, but previous shows have featured plays about characters like a foulmouthed hooker on the brink of suicide; a psychologically abusive nun confronted by the kids she hurt; and a doomed, down-on-his-luck accused rapist who befriends an equally downtrodden dishwasher before being unceremoniously gunned down by a vindictive mob. Crackle-voiced Grease reheats, this ain't. 7:30 p.m. both nights; suggested donation $7 students, $14 general. — Ellen Cushing

Flogging Molly
Flogging Molly's blistering mash up of traditional Irish music and punk thrash wrings every bit of energy and emotion out of a crowd. Bandleader and main songwriter Dave King composes his incendiary lyrics on a typewriter that was made in 1916, the year of the Easter Rising. Thus, it's no accident that the spirit of Irish pride and rebellion resonates throughout the band's sweat-inducing repertoire. Its blend of acoustic and electric instruments keeps the music rooted in tradition while giving it a contemporary twist. The band's annual monthlong celebration of Saint Patrick's Day will provide an evening of rowdy rebel rousing for all. At The Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph, Oakland) Saturday, Mar.19, 7:30 p.m. $29.50 — j. poet

Dance Anywhere
It’s called dance anywhere, but “dance everywhere” is more like it. For this everybody-dance-now event — which goes down today, March 18 — people around the world get up and shake it at the same moment, uniting across time zones, continents, and political boundaries to create a global guerilla dance-in. Over the past six years, schools streets, bridges, subway platforms, art galleries, and parks have doubled as dance floors for participants from Slovenia to Namibia, and across all fifty states. Locally, you can freeform it by standing up and getting your groove on wherever you are or, if you’d prefer to dance somewhere, by joining an ensemble at the Berkeley Art Museum (2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley), the Oakland Museum (1000 Oak St., Oakland), or Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th St. near Broadway, Oakland). The only officially choreographed element is the starting time. Noon, free. — Claudia Bauer


Catch a Movie: Our intrepid movie reviewer recommends Paul, opening this weekend in the East Bay.

Eat Up: Our critic is all about the ribs, the crispy avocado tacos, and the martini at Disco Volante.

Waste Some Time: The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest novels in history, a timeless meditation on the fallacy of the American dream and the psychic emptiness of Jazz-Age aristocracy. So also, obviously, perfect fodder for a (stunningly addictive) 8-bit NES-style computer game, in which protagonist Nick Carraway is forced to punch and kick his way through a thicket of flappers, butlers, hobos, and the like. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past shameless Friday-afternoon procrastination and wanton time theft.

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