Kushner’s latest offers big themes in small packages

The only tiny thing about “Tiny Kushner” is that it’s made up of five short one-acts.

The play, by Tony, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, perhaps best known for the epic “Angels in America,” is a really big show. It’s brainy, complex, political, crazy, funny, sarcastic and a little bit touching.

Tony Taccone, Berkeley Repertory Theatre artistic director and longtime collaborator with Kushner, is at the helm of the West Coast premiere of a show that originated at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Four dazzling actors repeat their roles here, spewing Kushner’s inimitable dialogue beginning with popular themes – life, death, sex and taxes – and, in many cases, characters that were or are real people.

But the settings, set-ups and places Kushner goes are, literally, out of this world.

The opening piece tells of what happens when hardened Geraldine, Queen of Albania (Kate Eifrig) meets flighty entertainer Lucia Pamela (Valeri Mudek) on the moon, after they’re dead, and they share wildly divergent views on life.

The second play is set in a therapist’s office, where a conflicted gay man (J.C. Cutler) and his analyst (Eifrig) spar about desire, desirability, or a lack thereof.

Jim Lichtscheidl’s gives a tour de force performance in the third piece, “East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis,” in which he plays multiple characters: New York cops (and many people who help them) as they go to extremely creative measures not to pay taxes.

After intermission, the fourth play serves up the afterlife and psychiatry again. Meeting a “recording angel” (Eifrig) for a session in paradise, Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker (Cutler) – Richard M. Nixon’s therapist – bares his soul, along with juicy insights into his famous, and famously insecure, patient.

Laura Bush (Eifrig, in a poignant, pointed, spot-on performance) is at the center of the final play. Speaking to dead Iraqi schoolchildren, she tries to explain points of life and her husband’s administration’s politics by reading an excerpt from Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov” to them.

Like the rest of “Tiny Kushner,” it’s dense, outrageous and wildly provocative, ending an evening of one-of-a-kind entertainment that dares to raise – as well as try to answer – questions about humanity and morality.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

 

THEATER REVIEW

Tiny Kushner

Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Where: 2025 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8  p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 and 8 p.m. most Thursdays and Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes Nov. 29
Tickets: $33 to $71
Contact: (510) 647-2949; www.berkeleyrep.org

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