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Fêtes de la Nuit 

A gorgeously packaged promenade of clichés about France

Wednesday, Feb 9 2005
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One of the biggest theatrical hits in Paris last year was a comédie-musicale called Zapping! that, with its relentlessly chirpy medley, lovingly regurgitated many of the French's favorite bits of American pop culture from Grease to Gene Kelly. Berkeley Rep's world premiere production of Charles L. Mee's Fêtes de la Nuit returns the favor with its racy celebration of all things French. The show is supposed to be a love song (or "naughty Valentine") to Paris, but I'm not sure there's much intrinsically Parisian about this gorgeously packaged promenade of clichés, although it's arguably Gaulish in tone. Through Mee's string of witty petit four-size comic sketches exploring a variety of themes, including sex, food, cigarettes, and sex -- did I mention sex? -- our shallowest impressions of the culture that brought us Johnny Hallyday are upheld: The French intellectualize too much, they're a bunch of nymphomaniacs, and they hate McDonald's. While Mee's eye on French culture isn't nearly as sharp as, say, Adam Gopnik's in his collection of essays Paris to the Moon, director Les Waters -- helped by Annie Smart's simple set designs, Christal Weatherly's haute couture, and crisp lighting and sound effects by Alexander V. Nichols and Jake Rodriguez -- manages to create delicately moving tableaux vivants in many of the scenes (particularly those in which the actors don't rush about speaking in terrible Inspector Clouseau accents). Experiencing Fêtes de la Nuit is like being tickled with a pink feather boa: It causes deliciously tantalizing sensations to run up and down your spine, but after a bit, you just want it to stop.

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Chloe Veltman

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