Stage Capsules

The Glass Menagerie
Probably the last thing the world needs is another production of The Glass Menagerie. Yet the Aurora Theater Company manages to dust off (though not redeem) the clunky symbolism of the play with some great acting and intelligent directing. Lura Dolas takes a while to warm up to the role of the fearful, plotting Amanda, her sing-song delivery more whining than wheedling at first, but eventually puts humor and iron into her character. Kathryn Pallakoff's lovely, pale face, washed in disappointment as Laura, disguises the emptiness of the role. And Gabe Sebastian as Tom watches Mother Amanda warily, deploying wit and irony as both defense and offense. Sebastian only loses his way in the final speech, which for some reason he chooses to intone portentously. But in a role that Williams proclaims as metaphor (duh), Paul Sulzman as Jim the Gentleman Caller is just about perfect. As Williams' archetypal American go-getter, Sulzman motivates like Tony Robbins and pitches woo like a young Paul Newman, providing excitement, energy, romance, and tenderness. Soren Oliver has directed with talent and taste. Would that the Aurora had chosen a better Williams play on which to exercise these gifts.

--By Joe Mader

Sunset Boulevard
Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't even pretend he's got any talent with this crushing bore -- he knows audiences will lap up whatever thin gruel he cares to ladle out. The music is mostly rote recitativo, except for the big ballad "With One Look" and a rip-off of "Feelin' Groovy" that gets played about 867 times. The original production's much-vaunted sets have been pared down unflatteringly (it takes a while to realize that one set piece is a swimming pool and not a subway entrance), and lack any sense of rot or corruption. Standard Lloyd Webber/Les Miz quavering suffices for the singing, but Petula Clark as Norma provides a spark here and there. Her performance sometimes suggests dithering dotage rather than grand madness, yet she barks out her butler's name humorously, uses an effectively creepy little-girl voice in the final mad scene, and sings spectacularly. Too vibrantly, too youthfully, for the role, perhaps, but subjugating that voice to Lord Andrew's dreck is like covering your best Chanel with a plastic poncho. Come back and sing some real songs, Pet! With Lewis Cleale, Sarah Uriarte Berry, and Allen Fitzpatrick.

Details

The Glass Menagerie.
Through October 31 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley. Call 510-843-4822.

Sunset Boulevard.
Through Nov. 7 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St. Call 512-7770.

The Price.
Through Nov. 20 at Il Teatro 450, 449 Powell; call 433-1172

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--By Joe Mader

The Price
Fear is a palpable force in Arthur Miller's 1968 drama, which dissects the social and personal factors affecting people's choices. The title ostensibly refers to the price of Depression-era furniture which a soon-to-be-retired cop named Victor (James Palermo) must dispose of after his father's death. He calls in an octogenarian furniture dealer (F. Francis Walters, as the prophetically named Solomon), and after some friendly sparring, they strike a deal. But when Victor's wife Esther (Chris Rodgers) and estranged brother Walter (Louis Parnell) arrive on the scene, things get complicated. Through a series of maddeningly cyclical arguments, we learn Victor gave up scientific research to support his father after the market crash, that Walter became a doctor but shirked his familial duties, and that ever since, each has feared the other was somehow living a more genuine existence. The cast turns in a thoroughly engaging performance; Palermo makes Victor's anguish palpable, and Walters (substituting as Solomon for an ailing Dean Goodman) livens up every scene with his wry observations, delivered in booming Brooklynese. And thanks to the wage-slave climate of our tech-driven economy, Miller's work rings as true now as it ever did.

--By Heather Wisner

 
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