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The critics are crazy about Compulsion

posted by Terence Keane on Sun, Sep 19, 2010

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1_0 On opening night, the audience leapt to its feet to give Compulsion a standing ovation -- and now the critics have spoken. Even the little man in the Chronicle is jumping out of his seat in delight! Judging by these reviews, you'd better buy tickets soon if you don't already have them.

Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle: "RIVETING... Virtuoso acting is just one reason to see Rinne Groff's Compulsion, which opened Thursday at Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage: Patinkin and his two castmates deliver the goods. But there is also Oskar Eustis' sleek, multifaceted staging and the way Groff revels in wrestling with knotty ideas in conflict. Her semifictional dive into one real Jewish writer's litigious battle over Anne Frank's diary is a compelling foray along a thin line between idealism and fanaticism... As his understandably fervent advocacy turns to vicious personal attacks on those he thinks are thwarting him – Lillian Hellman and Otto Frank in particular – Patinkin's descent into paranoia and the fanaticism of a true believer is as chilling as it is thrilling to witness... The spirit of Anne Frank hovers over the proceedings, intervening in unexpected ways, as Groff probes the psychology of politics and what happens when a person becomes an issue and a commodity."

Pat Craig for the Bay Area News Group (Mercury News / Oakland Tribune / Contra Costa Times): "STUNNING... It takes only seconds to forget you are watching Patinkin on stage. The actor completely immerses himself into the character of Silver, so the idea of seeing a celebrity on stage is barely considered… His story, based on the true-life author Meyer Levin, is told with puppetry, fantasy, comedy and drama in the aptly named Compulsion, a brilliant and emotional new play by Rinne Groff… Most striking, however, is that puppets (skillfully manipulated from high above the stage by Emily DeCola, Daniel Fay and Eric Wright) are used represent Anne and other members of her family. This allows the show to unfold on a fairly simple set, designed by Eugene Lee, with some stunning video projections by Jeff Sugg. It also lets director Oskar Eustis and his actors move seamlessly from fiction to fantasy and back, and to heighten the emotional explosions of the characters in the unfolding story."

Jerry Friedman on KGO-AM: "A MUST SEE... Berkeley Repertory Theatre opened its new season in its usual manner, with another winning production: Rinne Groff's gripping drama Compulsion, skillfully directed by Oskar Eustis, and starring the masterful Mandy Patinkin... Patinkin portrays his character magnificently with dynamic force and appears to be actually living the role. The other two members of the cast are equally superb... It is such a pleasure to witness the outstanding performance of Mandy Patinkin. It's an acting masterpiece! Compulsion will be heading to New York's Public Theatre next February, and is now playing at Berkeley Rep thru October 31st."

Hannah Cabell and Mandy Patinkin in Compulsion (photo courtesy of

Frances Dinkelspiel for Berkeleyside: "WONDERFUL... As directed by Oskar Eustis, Mandy Patinkin makes Silver both odious and attractive and always interesting. As Patinkin has commented in numerous interviews, he feels he was born to play this role. And it fits him to a tee. The rest of the cast is just as good. Throughout the performance, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Hannah Cabell, who plays Silver’s long-suffering wife as well as Miss Mermin, the Doubleday editor who championed Anne’s diary and who later turns against Silver. Matte Osian plays a revolving cast of characters, each so distinctive and engaging that I could have sworn different actors were playing each part... Puppets of Anne, Otto Frank, and others appear intermittently in the production and I found their presence added an extra layer of complexity to this moving play. The puppeteers Emily DeCola, Daniel Fay, and Eric Wright manged to manipulate the marionettes so that they seemed to be expressing human emotions."

Clinton Stark for Stark Silver Creek: "MARVELOUS... Berkeley Rep does it again. With the exquisite Compulsion, the West Coast’s most fearless theatre opens its season with an intelligent, thought-provoking play that deconstructs Jewish culture, history and faith. And once again – 14 times in 14 years – a Rep production will make its way to New York, following in the footsteps of smash hit American Idiot... This is Patinkin’s show. He’s on stage for the whole 2 hours; riveting, engrossing stuff. His French wife, played with whimsy and resolve in an equally outstanding performance by Hanna Cabell... Then there are the marionettes! Although they don’t appear on stage, the three puppeteers (Emily DeCola, Daniel Fay, Eric Wright) are very much stars of this show. Beautifully intricate creations, with what must be about two-stories of fine lines running from rafters to the stage, the marionettes convey elegance and haunting poignancy... The Bay Area has the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. But, these days, it’s nice to know we can count on Berkeley Rep for a winning tradition. What’s in the water? With Compulsion the dynasty continues."


I saw the production last night. I was so bowled over I'm seeing it a second time, mid-October. You may wish to see my blog post on it. Thanks once again, and more than ever, Berkeley Rep!

Chandra garsson | Thu, Sep 23, 2010

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