The Ugly American

Current events in London give this one-man show an added poignancy


Through Aug. 13

Tickets are $15-35

(510) 647-2949

www. b

Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley

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Like many European destinations, London has always held a romantic allure for young Americans, appealing to their appetite for olde pubs, fish and chips, and tasty birds. But the recent bombings in the U.K. capital have caused that city's dark side to resurface in the global imagination with alarming force. As a result, the kernel of melancholy and fear at the heart of Mike Daisey's The Ugly American, an otherwise unabashedly potty account of the author's student year abroad in mid-1990s London, feels particularly powerful. Daisey -- who looks a bit like the Duchess from Alice in Wonderland as depicted by Victorian illustrator John Tenniel in the original editions of Lewis Carroll's book, and also shares something of the raucous Dame's demeanor -- is a master raconteur in the tradition of Spalding Gray, capable of entrancing an audience for two hours while only once getting up from behind a large wooden desk (and that was for the 10-minute intermission). The Ugly American is as daft, prescient, and eloquently delivered as Daisey's earlier solo show, 21 Dog Years: Doing Yet the material for this new effort could use some refining: While Daisey's journey to the fringes of London's theater scene is hilarious and culturally astute, the storyteller's depiction of his bittersweet love affair with a fellow actor feels long-winded and aimless.

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