What's Happening in East Bay Theater 

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."

Days of Wine & Roses -- One long, melodramatic commercial for AA that hews closely to the program party line, J.P. Miller's screenplay is barely and badly adapted to the stage. Rich Aiello and Brenda Reed make a charming pair of soused spouses, though more in animal detoxed desperation than during the staggering benders, and a sizable ensemble does what it can with a variety of paper-thin walk-on parts in what is a two-actor piece that hasn't come to terms with it yet. -- S.H. (Through October 22 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts; DLRCA.org or 925-943-7469)

Deathtrap -- Witty, self-referential, and a sly commentary on the mystery thriller genre, Ira Levin's Deathtrap has been stunning audiences for almost thirty years. Two acts, five characters, one room, a dark and stormy night, power outages, an inheritance, and a couple of killer plot twists make this a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Yet the Willows goes above and beyond. The acting is tight, the pacing is good, and the design elements all work. -- L.D. (At the Willows through October 23; WillowsTheatre.org or 925-798-1300.)

Executive Order 9066 -- It's hard to imagine that a teapot and two cups could tell a complex, neglected story from World War II, but in the hands of Liebe Wetzel's company Lunatique Fantastique, a tea set gets a star turn. And some tin cans. And newspapers, and sticks, and old shoes, and a metal cafeteria tray, the kind with dividers to keep the portions separate. Such is the magic of Wetzel's work. Her characters, vehicles, and sets are constructed on the fly by half a dozen black-clad performers who arrange objects into various configurations, leaving plenty to the audience's imagination. -- L.D. (Through October 21 at the Marsh, Berkeley; TheMarsh.org or 800-838-3006.)

The Full Monty -- Will they or won't they? 1997's The Full Monty teased movie audiences with six unemployed British steelworkers debating whether to "get their kit off" in front of screaming strangers. The quirky tale did so well that the film's producer made the story into a Broadway musical. In terms of storyline, it's a faithful translation of Simon Beaufoy's screenplay, down to the last red breakaway thong. The film's core themes are intact. Men are forced to think about how they look at and treat women and each other. There's a lot to work with, and the musical garnered ten Tony nominations, ran for two solid years, and spun off a tour. So it's a crowd-pleaser, and CCMT's production is fun, but don't expect the sly charm of the original. -- L.D. (At the Dean Lesher Center through November 5; CCMT.org or 925-943-7469.)

Macbeth -- If you've always thought someone should do a Macbeth in which Green Lantern kills Superman and Batman, then your moment has come. With the entire cast in homemade-looking trick-or-treat costumes by Melissa Paterson, director Kevin T. Morales' Halloween-themed production is fun and diverting, though it often feels as if it's diverting from the drama of the story itself. With giggling teen witches, some impressive fight choreography by Bruce Cole, and familiar tunes by Green Day and the Police sung between scenes, there are plenty of amusements to help sell one of Shakespeare's plays that really doesn't need much help in the first place. -- S.H. (Through November 12 at Town Hall Theatre; THTC.org or 925-283-1557.)

Our Town -- At first glance, Thornton Wilder's legendary play might seem to fall into the nostalgia trap, with its soda fountain and unlocked doors. But Our Town is much more interesting than its reputation suggests, especially in a version that manages to be meditative and not maudlin, gentle and profound. This is a quintessentially American town, yes, and things may be simpler, but people's problems, their sadness and loss and occasional despair, affect them just as deeply. -- L.D. (Through October 23 at the Roda Stage; BerkeleyRep.org or 510-647-2949.)

Red Hot and Cole -- This Cole Porter musical revue also serves as a biographical sketch, and that's not the good news. Told in flat "I remember" monologues and a few flippant scenes, the show's strength is the stellar songbook it has to draw from, though it also serves as a reminder that Porter wrote some clunkers along with his classics, which are often given short shrift as tiny snippets within sprawling medleys. This production by Danville's Role Players Ensemble Theatre is uncomplicated community entertainment with no bones about it, with variable vocal talent and labored gaiety in the dance numbers all part of the package. Shari Lynn Oret makes a credible Ethel Merman, and Alan Cameron plays a charmingly sardonic Cole (by way of Jack Benny) and sings his songs with impish aplomb. -- S.H. (Through November 5 at the Village Theatre; VillageTheatreShows.com or 925-314-3463.)

The Tempest -- Because it is neither purely comedy nor tragedy, Shakespeare's The Tempest gives a director a little more room to move -- is it going to be all heavy and intense, or played for laughs? From the beginning shipwreck, where director Lilian Groag works an interesting variation on the "moving fabric as water" trick, it's clear that the current CalShakes incarnation will be on the lighter end of the spectrum. Which is not to say that the production is lightweight. Silly and charming, yes, but still intense, especially when it comes to loss. Not an epic Tempest so much as a human-scale one. -- L.D. (At CalShakes through October 23; CalShakes.org or 510-548-9666.)

You Can't Take It with You -- Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's 1936 comedic classic holds up surprisingly well today with all its jokes about Russian nobles brought low by the revolution and that newfangled income tax, which is a good thing because the play is performed so often. Yet it relies on timing that could be snappier in Kate Culbertson's community theater production, which earns more pleasant smiles than actual laughs, and the dotty household at its center comes off as quietly quirky at best. -- S.H. (Through October 22 at Contra Costa Civic Theatre; CCCT.org or 510-524-6654.)


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