‘COMPULSION’ at Berkeley Rep

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to New York. For a while there, we were hitting it once a year or so, but this year’s been a little crazy, with a lot of moving and traveling and whatnot. Luckily, we have Berkeley Rep around, so we’re often able to see plays that will end up in New York anyway.

A couple years ago, when people in New York were discovering Passing Strange, we could rest assured that we’d already seen it. Ditto with In The Next Room; caught it about six months before New York did. (And our version had Stacy Ross in it, so there.)

This past weekend, I got to see Rinne Groff’s Compulsion, which will apparently be in New York soon, too. It stars Mandy Patinkin, and I use the word “star” purposefully, because it’s just like when I saw Rita Moreno playing Maria Callas: certain people are just stars, and the second they walk onstage, you can’t take your eyes off them.

Of course, it also stars puppets. I love puppets. Puppets brought me back onto the stage, when I was in this with these guys. I remember saying something before Compulsion started about puppets being “even more human than humans.” So it’s probably just me, but I wanted even more puppets.

Case in point: The knock-out scene, the one that Chad Jones over at Theater Dogs describes beautifully, is a protracted scene with Patinkin, the actor playing his wife — and a puppet version of Anne Frank. It’s stunning.

That said, I do kind of agree with Chloe Veltman that the script’s a little talky, a little long and a little repetitive. But then there’s this amazing actor, and this awesome stage design, and some mad puppet skills — and the fact that we got a taste of New York without having to get on a plane.

The bigger theaters are kicking off their seasons with some intriguing stuff. I’ve seen Trouble In Mind at Aurora and Compulsion at Berkeley Rep, and I just bought tickets for the The Brother/Sister Plays at Magic Theatre, A.C.T. and Marin Theatre. Next stop, indie theatre! Specifically, beer and theater under a pizza parlor.

(Disclosure: I was comp’d to this show.)