Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach

Saw this new play last night and I can't decide how I feel about it.

The Berkeley Rep has a solid reputation for hosting some stellar artists and some intriguing new premieres. Last summer I saw Rita Moreno take a turn as the mother in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" there, and it was out of this world. They generally take some big risks in a city where the smarty-pants audience members will actually appreciate those risks.

So this month they're running the world premiere of a new quasi-musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." Great novel, of course; lyrical and lovely and heartbreaking in Woolf's classic stream of consciousness style. But it's such an interior format that it's hard to imagine transitioning that into a play. The results are successful aesthetically: beautiful period costumes, effective lighting, some good set ideas and interesting use of mirrors to kind of magnify that Impressionistic sense of the work. And the string quartet was simply gorgeous.

But I have to say, otherwise: disappointing. The singing - eh, not so much. A little too brassy, and a little too out-of-left-field. The adaptation was definitely made in the most well-intentioned spirit, and a lot of lines came through that I recognized verbatim from the novel itself, but if I hadn't known the book already, I think I would have been, well - left in the dark. Bad pun intended.

If you're a Virginia fan, it's worth checking out. Apparently it was a big enough premiere that the Times took care to review it. You can find that review, and the Chron's, below. I'm glad to see that both reviewers pinpointed the problematic balance of failure and success that the production seems to have found.

Times review
Chron review


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