Half of the Fifth Commandment instructs us to honor our fathers. Director Jonathan Moscone is attempting to do just that with “Ghost Light,” which makes its Bay Area premiere Friday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Written by Tony Taccone, Berkeley Rep’s artistic director who conceived and developed the project with Moscone, the play revolves around a director staging a production of “Hamlet” and how this unleashes unresolved feelings about the shooting death of his own father.
Moscone, currently artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda, is, of course, the son of former San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.
Mayor Moscone, along with Supervisor Harvey Milk, was assassinated by ex-Supervisor Dan White at City Hall in 1978. Jonathan was 14 when his dad died.
That dark spot in San Francisco’s history has been told in books, documentaries, feature films and even an opera.
Inevitably, the spotlight is on Milk, and the late mayor’s role is reduced to supporting player.
It’s a condition that has troubled the younger Moscone for decades, though he does not expect “Ghost Light” to completely balance those scales.
“The play is not a documentary of my father’s life,” says Moscone. “Certainly the least effective way to try to restore someone’s name in the history books is to do it through a play. That doesn’t reach the kind of numbers of people who need to hear the information that I think is important.”
It’s also not merely the family tie that motivated Moscone.
“There are so few models of progressive politicians or activists,” he says, “who I think can inspire people to do this kind of work, whether in public service or community service.”
So while Moscone’s life experience informs the work, both he and Taccone make very clear it is a work of fiction.
“Every play is fiction,” says Moscone. “To say that any play is fact is a lie. Even documentaries are fiction because there are opinions and [the documentarians] talk to very certain kinds of people to make sure that the message that the documentary wants to give comes across.”
Instead, Moscone says, the play explores “what it feels like to grow up in the shadow of someone who I forgot and how that makes becoming a man more complicated, more difficult. The play is about the feelings of a man who has seen his father erased from memory — from local memory, from historical memory and from his own memory.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Where: 2025 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays; 7 p.m. most Wednesdays; 2 and 8 p.m. most Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes Feb. 19
Tickets: $14.50 to $73
Contact: (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org