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Swanwhite

Transparent Theater launches with an unconventional play based on a dreamer's subconscious

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Tickets are $20

(510) 883-0305

Through Oct. 21

Transparent Theater, 1901 Ashby (at Martin Luther King Jr.), Berkeley

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In today's daunting economic climate, the folks at Transparent Theater have accomplished an amazing feat, launching a new company in a new space (a converted church) with Jacob Christfort's world premiere translation of Strindberg's little-known Swanwhite, directed by the visionary artistic director Tom Clyde. I'm no connoisseur of Strindberg, but I know that in his time he challenged the conventional notions of theater with plays that embodied dreams. He felt the world was an illusion, so his characters sprang from a dreamer's subconscious, with standard character development and plot made secondary to imagery and emotion. A Dream Play, written in 1901, is a more definitive example of his philosophy than Swanwhite, written earlier that year and drawn from Swedish folklore. Princess Swanwhite (Kim Jiang) is betrothed against her will to a king (a strong Noah James Butler) but falls in love with a prince (Jorge Rubio). Her evil stepmother (Sheri Clyde, mother of Tom) endeavors to keep the prince and Swanwhite apart. The play tests the limits of love, and for the most part Christfort maintains Strindberg's poetic language ("If I were to have you, I would hold a corpse in my arms," the king says to Swanwhite). Sadly, Jiang and Sheri Clyde can't quite bring their characters to life. But Rubio breathes passion into the music of each line and word, and Richard Bolster (as the gardener) finds the humorous moments. Though audiences may not forgive the inconsistent acting, Tom Clyde ought to be supported both for assembling a cast (Anna Moore and Algin Ford round it out) reflective of Transparent's neighborhood and for making a commitment to the diversity of the theatrical community. By taking risks in both his casting and his choice of plays, Clyde invests for a long-term gain. Indeed, up next is the West Coast premiere of Robert O'Hara's Brave Brood, the second (and most volatile) in his trilogy examining the legacy of slavery. American Conservatory Theater presented the other two, but Transparent has snagged the rights to this one.

 
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