A couple of years ago, Manhattan tongues were wagging about this edgy new Broadway play, Metamorphoses. "I don't know what it's about," the Times Square tourists wondered, "but apparently it's got a swimming pool -- right onstage!" You practically had to sell your mother to land tickets, and within a few months the performance -- an avant-garde interpretation of Roman myths set in a shallow pool of water -- had been called the "theater event of the year" by Timemagazine and had nabbed a Tony for its director, Mary Zimmerman, who also wrote Metamorphoses.
When she's not busy seducing theater critics on multiple continents with her abstract, minimalist productions, Bay Area native Zimmerman teaches at Northwestern, writes operas with Philip Glass, and develops work at David Schwimmer's Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago. The West Coast premiere of her recent work, The Secret in the Wings, opens Berkeley Rep's 2004 season and is billed as a kind of fairy tale for adults. Inspired partly by Beauty and the Beast, Secret doesn't tell a cohesive story so much as create a dreamy sketch of the dark corners of the collective unconscious, complete with the archetypes and symbols -- forlorn princesses, evil queens, ogres -- common to children's stories. Metamorphoses' scenic designer, Daniel Ostling, reteams with Zimmerman to create the spare sets, and the cast includes many of the original Chicago players, among them Laura Eason and Raymond Fox.
Previews start at 8 tonight (and performances continue through Oct. 17) at the Roda Theater, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $39-55; call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.
-- Maya Kroth
Slightly Scary Circus
If you've ever watched the TV jail drama Oz, you might think that incarceration is, well, surprisingly erotic. OmniCircus' new show, Charge of the Night Brigade, pulls off a similar feat. In addition to anti-war songs, live robotics, and projected 3-D animation, the production also features an "Abu Ghraib inspired" dance recital. Although that does sound a tad like The Accused -- The Broadway Musical!, OmniCircus attempts to explain the relationship of prison to our country and to the war in Iraq -- only with sexy, barely dressed performers. The curtain goes up tonight at 9:30 (and the show runs through Sept. 18) at OmniCircus, 550 Natoma (at Russ), S.F. Admission is a $10 donation; call 701-0686 or visit www.omnicircus.com.
-- Brock Keeling
Orixa's finally irresistible
You know how there are some bands you really want to like, whose music sounds great on paper but less so when you actually put the record on? That was my initial take on Orixa. I mean, who could resist a Bay Area act with socially conscious songs that gleefully romped through Latin, rock, ska, and funk? But on its earliest efforts the group produced output that was energetic yet muddily cacophonous. Fortunately, since that first 1996 release Orixa's sound has matured. Catch its spine-tingling mix of rump-shaking hip hop and Latin beats overlaid with rap and rock vocals en español and hints of Latin instrumentation (such as classical Spanish guitar-picking à la Andrés Segovia) as the band opens for Control Machete at 9 p.m. at the Independent, 628 Divisadero (at Hayes), S.F. Admission is $18-20; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
The godfathers of hip hop
When Public Enemy hit the mainstream in the mid-1980s, the group's outspoken lyrics, rampant sampling, and giant boom were a revelation, even to kids like me living in hicksville backwaters. Everything about the music seemed right -- especially to teenagers with brains and ears, no matter if they'd grown up slopping pigs or mowing lawns. Chuck D's big, big voice told us what to do -- fight the power -- while Terminator X and Flava Flav made music to blow the roof off with.
When this sort of brain power and honesty meets up with stratospheric musical talent, the result transcends race, class, gender, and all that jazz -- which is why this farm girl wants to go to the show. DJ Lord and the 7th Octave open at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $30; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Whip It Good
Know what Burning Man isn't famous for? Great rock music. Guess that explains why the Coachwhips are in town this week -- either that or they spent the 250 bucks that might have bought them a Burning Man ticket on PBR. Whatever the case, the band has a new album, Bangers vs. Fuckers, and in case you were wondering whether these spazzed-out freaks had "matured" or "gotten serious" or anything like that, the answer is no. No slowing down, no growing up, no crap -- just hyperactive, fuzzy hooks to bounce around to. Barr and Snowsuit open at 9 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is $5; call 885-4074 or visit www.castlenews.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser