A Pig's Life
A Place With the Pigs (A Personal Parable), by Athol Fugard, goes up this week at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. The only Fugard play not set in South Africa, Pigs is nonetheless close to the playwright's heart: When it premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven in 1987, Fugard not only directed, but starred as the Russian man who, after deserting the Soviet army during World War II, spent 41 years hiding in a pigsty. (Fugard got his inspiration from a story in the New York Times about such a man.) Previously a heavy drinker, Fugard gave up booze and cigs in an attempt to expand his consciousness, and according to Tom Ross, director of the Aurora production, "This is the play that got him back in the saddle after he cleaned up his act." The playwright has taken a particular interest in this production, exchanging faxes with Ross, who says, "I've tried not to bother him too much since he's in an ashram in South Africa right now." Fugard encouraged Ross to pay attention to the humor in the play, which, despite its apparently dour theme, is whimsical and amusing. "People shouldn't think they're seeing Dostoyevsky," Ross says. Soren Oliver (an accomplished actor who also happens to be the progeny of Aurora artistic director Barbara Oliver) and Stephanie Hunt (East, Cousin Martin) play the soldier and his wife. There are no actual pigs in the production, but an elaborate sound design provides abundant snorting and squealing. "We're having a lot of fun turning this very beautiful Julia Morgan Theatre into a mess," Ross says.
Nuke the New Age
Mick Berry's anti-New Age autobiographical show, What's My Mantra?, has been extended indefinitely at the Cable Car Theatre. Dan Chumley, a San Francisco Mime Troupe veteran, directs.
Stupid Animal Tricks
That and more grace The Gong Show, an evening of unnatural acts by Nefertiti Jones. Complete with an honest-to-gawd gong, Jones recreates the Chuck Barris montage of dog acts, divas and derelicts at Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint April 7, 14 and 21.
Improbable Playwrights: Famous People, Not-So-Famous Plays, a reading of short plays by nonplaywrights benefiting the Magic Theatre, was supposed to happen last month with Grateful Dead wannabe-playwright Jerry Garcia as the headliner, but he pulled out at the last minute (no official word on why), causing the whole event to be postponed until April 17. The reified event includes the likes of Esprit founder Susie Tompkins and chef/Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters.