Berkeley Rep Blog

Previous entry: 1,001 Instruments
Next entry: Anatomy of a show poster: The Arabian Nights

Beware... the... evil... ellipsis...

posted by Terence Keane on Fri, Nov 21, 2008
in Our shows

Bookmark and Share

I don't mind waking up early, if it means waking up to good news. If you get the Chronicle, I'm sure you saw Rob Hurwitt's glowing review of The Arabian Nights on the front cover of the Datebook. Or maybe you read the raves in the Mercury News or the Contra Costa Times.

It's extremely gratifying for everyone at the Theatre when a show receives such uniformly positive praise. I think it's fair to say that we've got a hit on our hands. In fact, I kind of feel bad for the folks in our box office, because the phones are about to start ringing like Pete Townsend's ears.

One of the things that PR and marketing people do, when reviews appear, is pull out the juicy quotes that best describe our show. By now, though, everyone is rightfully suspicious of ads that say things like "Spectacular! The... most... AMAZING... show... EVER." We all know to be wary of those ellipses, because who knows what nasty words appeared in between?

Well, with reviews like these, the challenge actually is to decide which of the many, many compliments to keep and which to sadly leave behind. Here's a taste of what the critics have to say about The Arabian Nights, with as few ellipses as possible. I've also provided links to each review, so you can check to see if I cheated:

  • "Stories are flying carpets in Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights. Performed by 15 resourceful actors and staged with a maximum of invention by Zimmerman, the ancient tales magically transport the Berkeley Repertory Theatre audience from a king's bedroom in Baghdad through markets, harems, courts and a crowded privy, and from heights of hilarity to sobering affirmations of shared humanity… Zimmerman has a genius for building stage spectaculars from the most basic, old-fashioned materials [and] the actors transform themselves into an exhilarating panoply of expertly etched characters." – San Francisco Chronicle

  • "A magical night of theater… There is a grand-slam, winning-the-World-Series sort of exhilaration to seeing top-notch theater performed by actors working at the peak of their game. You could feel it Wednesday night in the intermission buzz at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's production of Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights, a spectacular retelling of the old ‘1,001 nights’ tales staged so wonderfully well that you feel somehow better off just to have been in the theater that night. This rare and breathtaking piece of theater made it into my all-time Top 10 list maybe 15 minutes after it started, and it just kept climbing the chart as its 2½-hour production flew along.” – Contra Costa Times

  • "One thousand and one nights float by like a dream in The Arabian Nights. Tony-winning theater alchemist Mary Zimmerman has become famous for breathing fresh life into primal fables, from Metamorphoses to Argonautika. Time and again, she reconnects us to the myths and fables dancing at the edges of our collective subconscious… Balletic movement, frisky performances and the secrets of an ancient text make Arabian Nights a sultry fantasy that refreshes the senses... It's a celebration of the craft of the storyteller from which we too emerge recharged, renewed." – San Jose Mercury News

  • "Zimmerman’s got a great gimmick: she creates beautifully designed, expertly acted vehicles for sophisticated storytelling. In a very grown-up way, she turns us into kids slathering for a juicy bedtime story. And she always delivers… Zimmerman’s 15-member ensemble tumbles and spins through the tales with grace and glee. They drum, they play stringed instruments, sing, dance and jump from one character to another with ease and clarity. And they’re gorgeous in the shimmering, flowing robes and gowns and drapes provided by costumer Mara Blumenfeld. [Yet] The Arabian Nights never devolves into frivolity. There’s weight to the stories that comes from sadness and wisdom, and when, at the end, Zimmerman echoes present-day Baghdad, the oft-described ‘city of peace and poets,’ we sense the depth of history and our place in it." –

  • "Berkeley Repertory has opened a magnificent production of The Arabian Nights, written and directed by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman… Tales of romance, intrigue and betrayal, brilliantly performed by a superbly talented cast of 15. And it's all backed by traditional music and a fabulous open set. It's truly a spectacle to behold, and it's just perfect for the holidays." – KGO-AM

I can do my best not to deceive you with those three little dots, but I can't grant you three wishes. So here's some free advice for those who want tickets: you'd better buy them now, because I suspect they're going to sell faster than Sno-Cones in the Sahara.


The comments to this entry are closed.