Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Monster-Builder
Aurora Theatre Company
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Eddie's review of Mother's Milk: A Blues Riff in Three Acts, Richard's review of If/Then, and Patrick's reviews of Disgraced and Shakespeare Goes to War

Tracy Hazas and Danny Scheie
Photo by David Allen
The Aurora Theatre Company is presenting a provocative comedy by Amy Freed called The Monster-Builder. This is a satiric comedy that will raise many questions about architecture, city planning, and the drive toward monumentality; however, you don't have to know anything about architecture to enjoy the play. It's about the viciousness of determination and praise, and the modernism versus traditional forms of construction. This latest work by Freed reminds me of Yasmina Reza's Art with a little of Ibsen's The Master Builder thrown in for good measure.

Don't expect to see Dr. Frankenstein, either, in this two-hour comedy/drama, although the lead character, famous international architect Gregor Zubrowski, might be considered a monster-builder in the world of architecture. He is a supreme egomaniac who builds arrogant buildings over those with traditional styles of architecture. He flagrantly revels over his triumphs and scorns the people for whom he creates his buildings. Yes, this guy is a dogged power-crazy megalomaniac.

The Monster-Builder opens on a smart cocktail party where there is a lot of clever chitchat between fervent young architects Rita and Dieter who hope to revive a decaying old masterwork in a park and restore it as a stand-in for the old public commons. Also at this cocktail party is Tamsin, Gregor's latest young girlfriend who is more like his girl-toy. This sort of reminds me of a Noël Coward cocktail party with a lot of sophisticated banter. Later we see Gregor's client Pamela, who is a social-climber, and her level-headed rich husband Andy whose house will be built by Gregor.

Danny Scheie is outstanding as the egoist Gregor. He reminds me of an old-fashioned melodrama villain and he plays it to the hilt. He smiles and preens about the stage, his vibrant voice ringing out through the small intimate theatre. It's a tour de force of wonderful acting of an egomaniac. The supporting cast more than holds its own. Tracy Hazas is excellent as the forceful Rita. Thomas Gorrebeeck gives a great performance as Rita's husband Dieter, the slightly stubborn but well-meaning humanist. Sierra Jolene exhibits a sharp sense of droll technique as she portrays Gregor's girlfriend Tamsin. Nancy Carlin is splendid as the rich, wittily down-to-earth socialite Pamela, while Rod Gnapp is pitch perfect as the working-class tycoon Andy, who couldn't care less about the metaphysical concerns of the other characters.

Tom Buderwitz has designed a solid, all-white raised modern structure in the center of the three-sided stage that is supposed to be the house of Gregor. There is little furniture in this two-tiered set, while lighting designer Kent Dorsey has it brilliantly lit with bright lights. Callie Floor's costumes are chic dress. Art Manke's direction is sharp and to the point.

The Monster-Builder plays through December 13th, 2015, at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, Ca. Tickets can be obtained by calling 510-843-4822 or by visiting Coming up next is the world premiere of Mark Jackson's Little Erik, a contemporary adaptation of Ibsen's Little Eyolf opening on January 29 and running through February 28th.

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