What a romp is Amy Freed's "The Monster-Builder." Danny Scheie's brilliant Gregor, the mad architect whose modernist visions include constructing a hospital for Alzheimer's patients made out of a series of mazes, is both an award-worthy performance and a send-up of every minimalist piece of art you have ever hated. It feels SO good to laugh at Gregor.
(I can't wait to go back to the de Young to laugh derisively at the white wall surrounded by a frame. I know I'm not alone now.)
The cast is perfect. Sierra Jolene plays Tamsin, Gregor's superbly limber current wife, a natural comedienne who is able to pull off a wonderful set piece where Gregor uses her body to create a new artistic vision. "Careful, Buddy, I'm not in college anymore" is perhaps the best line in the show. You'll see.
Tracy Hazas and Thomas Gorrebeeck play Rita and Dieter, the young architects attempting to stay true to their artistic vision in the face of money and power, and Rod Gnapp and Nancy Carlin are perfect as Andy and Pamela ("call me Pam"), the moneyed patrons you can't help falling in love with despite their housing tract called Rancho Tuscany. An equal partner is Tom Buderwitz's eye-popping set which is a masterpiece of minimalist and functional art at the same time. Art Manke directs, as he did when the show first opened in Portland in 2014.
We love The Monster-Builder. Intelligent, funny and teeth-clenching at the same time, a mix we don't get often enough. Happy to hear it has been extended.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
We ran into Rod Gnapp and Tomas Gorrebeeck on the subway going home. We congratulated them on their terrific performances and they seemed genuinely surprised and grateful to hear compliments, the way actors always react when they are offstage. It has always amazed me that an actor can take me on such a wonderful ride, seemingly rolling down the same roller coaster himself, then morph back into just another guy taking the subway ten minutes after the curtain falls. It's one of theatre's delightful mysteries. Just sayin.'
Aurora Theatre Company
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED through December 20