Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures and
36 Stories by Sam Shepard

Also see Jeanie's review of Company

A Smart Production of Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures

Mark Margolis and Deirdre Lovejoy
Photo by
Tony Kushner's engaging first full-length play in almost ten years is currently being presented by the Berkeley Repertory Company with a magnificent cast consisting of New York and local actors. There are wide ranging themes in this three hour and forty-five minute drama stuffed with thought-provoking sociopolitical ideas and tension explosives. The playwright flawlessly incorporates class struggles, integrated politics, religion, homosexuality, and family dynamics.

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide... centers on 72-year-old retired longshoreman, union organizer, Communist Party member Gus (Mark Margolis), who has spent his later years translating Horace from the Latin. He finds himself falling apart, maybe from Alzheimer's, and this led to a recent suicide attempt. Gus has gathered together his three grown children, Phil (Lou Liberatore), Empty (Deirdre Lovejoy) and Vito (Joseph J. Parks), to talk about ending his life in his Brooklyn brownstone house. These scenes are electrifying to watch and hear as the children try to talk him out of killing himself.

There is a side story to this brilliant mammoth play, involving Phil and an educated male hustler Eli (Jordan Geiger) living in Minneapolis. Phil has spent around $30,000 on this prostitute and now he needs to break off his habitual trysts with the guy. He wants to return to his infuriated long-time partner Paul (Tyrone Mitchell Henderson). There is a lot going on with a number of characters in this epic drama including Empty, a lesbian labor lawyer whose partner Maeve (Liz Wisan) is expecting a child (Empty's construction worker brother has served as sperm donor). Also in the mix of characters are Gus's ineptly empathetic sister Cleo (Randy Danson), a former nun and Maoist who's been reading Mary Baker Eddy; Sooze (Tina Chilip), Vito's wife who can't get a word in edgewise due to her husband constantly spouting off during confrontations with his father; and Mauve's smitten ex-husband Adam (Anthony Fusco), who lives in the basement apartment of the brownstone.

There is a little of everything in this huge production, including references to George Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx, Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Anton Chekhov, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, the American labor movement, the Epistles of Horace, and the Communist Party of the United States of America.

All of the performances by the cast are ferocious and engrossing. Mark Margolis gives an outstanding performance as the ex-Communist longshoreman Gus. Lou Liberatore as Pill and Joseph J. Parks as Vito are expressively moving, brothers torn in many different ways. Liberatore's scenes with Jordan Geiger as Eli are brilliant, and Geiger gives a penetrating performance in those scenes. Randy Danson offers a beautiful, droll performance as Clio. Deirdre Lovejoy is superb and merges intelligence and coolness as Empty. Liz Wisan as Mauve and Mauve's former husband played by Anthony Fusco are perfect in their roles. Tyrone Mitchell Henderson is vibrant with his war of words as the angry mate of Phil, while Tina Chilip gives an excellent performance in a small role. Oregon Shakespeare actress Robynn Rodriguez arrives late in a showy role as the widow of one of Gus' comrades. She gives a splendid performance in this small role.

Director Tony Taccone provides a handsome, well-acted production. He has a great understanding of the reverberations, the periods of intense confrontations of the family, and the powerful words of the playwright. Christopher Barecca has devised an awesome, detailed two-story set of the Brooklyn brownstone house. Costume design by Meg Neville, lighting by Alexander V. Nichols, and sound by Jake Rodriguez are a great asset to this drama.

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures runs through June 29th, 2014, at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets please phone 510-647-2949 or visit Coming up on the Berkeley Rep Thrust Stage is Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, opening June 5th and running through June 22nd.

An Evocative Production of 36 Stories by Sam Shepard

JoAnne Winter and Carl Lumbly
Photo by Mark Leialoha
Word for Word has been creating productions out of short stories for over 20 years now. They are one of the few theatres in this country to transform stories into vibrant theatre pieces with complete renovations of the writer's work without varying a word. For Sam Shepard's 70th birthday, they along with other Bay Area Theatre companies were asked to join in the celebration.

Word for Word Company asked company member Amy Kossow to come up with an original production using only the writer's words. She spent a year immersed in all five of Sam Shepard's collections of poetry and fiction and crafted an entirely new theatrical adaptation from 36 different pieces.

The 90-minute drama is a road story that starts in a motel where the audience sees a lone writer (Rod Gnapp) sitting at a typewriter. He has traveled the great American highways, and the drama follows his experiences on the road. There is a lot going on in this fast-paced drama, including a talking severed head who gives commands, a young man who has written a sign at a local restaurant that is very poetic, and a rattled woman who picks up a powerfully untamed hawk. There is even a sex scene between the lonely writer and a sex pot played by Delia MacDougall.

Amy Kossow has assembled a consummate cast of five very talented local actors to play various roles in this loose narrative drama. Rod Gnapp is outstanding in the role of the road-weary, grizzled writer. Patrick Alparone is vibrant in various roles including the maker of the sign. He also does a bit of lively singing of his own musical compositions, using the words of the writer.

Carl Lumbly has fine acting chops, especially the sweet-talking severed head and the voice of the hawk. Delia MacDougall is excellent as the sexpot and a ruthless contract killer, while JoAnne Winter is impressive as a waitress, a driver, and the person who picks up the hawk. Amy Kossow's direction is sharp and fast paced.

36 Stories by Sam Shepard plays through June 22nd, 2014, at Z Below, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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