IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST “A handbag!” Oscar Wilde is known these days principally for his witty farce, The Importance of Being Earnest (if you’ve ever seen it, you’ll know Lady Bracknell’s line about the handbag). The Actors Ensemble of Berkeley is performing the much-loved play at Live Oak Theatre to kick off its 60th anniversary season. Sam Hurwitt in the Mercury News hailed it as a” pleasingly sprightly production that lets the wit flow freely.” Nicole Meñez directed the production. The final showings are Friday, Feb. 10 and Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave.
THE REAL AMERICANS The actor and playwright Dan Hoyle spent 100 days traveling through small-town America to talk to union coal miners, rural drug dealers, anti-war Veterans, and closeted gay creation theory experts, among others. Hoyle has condensed their world views into an updated, post-election run of The Real Americans at the Marsh. During its three-week run, from Feb. 10 to Feb, 25, the theater will bring in speakers for a series of post-performance “talkbacks.” Adam Werbach, a former president of the Sierra Club and a leading environmentalist, will talk on Friday; Al Letson, the host of the radio show Reveal, will join Dan on Feb. 16 to talk about investigative journalism, and Arlie Hochschild, the author of Strangers in their Own Land, will talk with Dan on Feb. 17. (See list of speakers.) The show, directed by Charlie Varon, is on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays at 5 p.m.
PIANO VIRTUOSO Pianist Aileen Chanco made her stunning debut with the San Francisco Symphony when she was 13 and has continued to enthrall audiences and critics since then with her virtuosity. She has appeared as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. On Saturday, Chanco will perform at 3:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Piano Club at 2724 Haste St. It’s worth the $30 price of admission alone to hear Chanco, but ticket buyers get the added bonus of seeing the club, now a city historical landmark. A group of Berkeley women formed the club in 1893 and hired the architect William L. Woollett, who also designed the Hollywood Bowl, to be their architect. The building became the club’s permanent home in 1912, according to the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project.
HARRY BEST AND THE SF PANHANDLERS A native of the Caribbean island nation St. Lucia, Harry Best has been one of the Bay Area stars of steel pan music since moving to El Sobrante, where in recent years he has taught music and led his band Shabang. On Saturday at Ashkenaz, Best will team with some of his friends for a dance-happy celebration.”It’s Trinidad Carnival and Valentine’s Day rolled into one, as Harry Best sings some of the greatest calypso songs from the masters including Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow, as well his own compositions, a great mix of romance and pointed politics to the irresistible rhythms of the Panhandlers who mix calypso with reggae, soca and samba.” Joining him will be Peter Best, Ed McCarver, Sharon Baird and Olison Baptiste of the Our Boys Steel Band, Shawn Thwaites, and saxophonist Danny Bittker. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. The music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.
MURCH AND WECHSLER The name Walter Murch is well-known to film aficionados. Murch, a sound designer and film editor, has wonhree Academy Awards for such films as Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. He also worked on the Godfather trilogy. Less known is Murch’s passion for astrophysics, in particular, the rehabilitation of Titius-Bode, a long-discredited 18th-century theory. Now master writer Lawrence Wechsler brings Murch’s quest to prove that theorem alive in his new book, Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists. The pair will be discussing Murch’s work and the book Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.
PREVIEW ALERT: MIKE DAISEY Mike Daisey, the acclaimed and controversial monologist, will be coming to Berkeley next week to perform two shows in the Shotgun Player’s BLAST Festival, running through the end of February at Ashby Stage. He will be performing “The End of Journalism,” from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18, and “This is Not Normal,” from Feb. 22 to 25. Daisey’s first show “tells the story of how journalism in America ended. From the rise of FOX News to the disruption of newspapers, to how Facebook replaced the television as the arbiter of truth, Daisey peels back the layers to find the darkly hilarious truth about the world we’ve made for ourselves.” His second show “addresses the precariousness of our current moment by examining the rise of autocracy and right-wing nationalism across the globe. From Putin’s Russia to Berlusconi’s Italy, from Le Pen in France to Trumpism here at home, Daisey crafts a portrait of the global and cultural forces that have helped lead America into the hands of a demagogue—and explains the push toward normalization from the left and right that always accompanies the rise of strongmen.”
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