Private Jokes, Public Places

Mean architects make for some fun, but after they make a grad student snap, the fun ends

Until the final moments of this satirical skewering of the elite architectural world, playwright Oren Safdie has his characters and his language right on the money. Primed with the inside knowledge that comes from being the son of famous architect Moshe Safdie, Oren Safdie creates two equally renowned and deliciously vicious architects who relish making mince meat of hapless graduate student Margaret's thesis project, crushing her vision as they fill themselves up with hot air. You wait with anticipation to see what Margaret will do when she's pushed too far — and actors Robert Parsons and Charles Dean have a ball pushing her as far as they can. But when Margaret finally snaps, the play loses it punch and becomes a serious drama about her struggles through life. Part of the problem is that as Margaret, M.J. Kang is unable to harness the depths of emotion needed to make her outbursts moving. But the greater problem lies in the sudden shift from a fresh, delightfully detailed story of architectural ambition to a generic, well-trodden story of individual sacrifice and inner strength. By trying to force his play to be something more — it's not just about architecture, it's about life — Safdie ends up making it something less. Molly Rhodes


Through May 13, Tickets are $38; call 510-843-4822 or visit www.
Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley.

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