Berkeley: Aurora Extends ‘Trouble in Mind’

Robin Stanton directs this play about race, identity, and opportunity, featuring Bay Area favorite Margo Hall in her Aurora Theatre Company debut.

Al Manners (c. r, Tim Kniffin*) directs Wiletta Mayer (c. l,Margo Hall*) in front of cast and crew (l, Melissa Quine, Rhonnie Washington*, r. front-back Patrick Russell*, Elizabeth Carter*, Jon Gentry*) in Trouble in Mind Photo by David Allen
Al Manners (c. r, Tim Kniffin*) directs Wiletta Mayer (c. l,Margo Hall*) in front of cast and crew (l, Melissa Quine, Rhonnie Washington*, r. front-back Patrick Russell*, Elizabeth Carter*, Jon Gentry*) in Trouble in Mind Photo by David Allen
Al Manners (c. r, Tim Kniffin*) directs Wiletta Mayer (c. l,Margo Hall*) in front of cast and crew (l, Melissa Quine, Rhonnie Washington*, r. front-back Patrick Russell*, Elizabeth Carter*, Jon Gentry*) in Trouble in Mind Photo by David Allen
Al Manners (c. r, Tim Kniffin*) directs Wiletta Mayer (c. l,Margo Hall*) in front of cast and crew (l, Melissa Quine, Rhonnie Washington*, r. front-back Patrick Russell*, Elizabeth Carter*, Jon Gentry*) in Trouble in Mind Photo by David Allen

Critics and audiences alike all seem to have TROUBLE IN MIND. Aurora Theatre Company announces that it will add an additional six performances of its current hit production of TROUBLE IN MIND, Alice Childress’ vibrant, humorous, and heartbreaking look at racism through the lens of the theater. Robin Stanton (Speech & Debate, Betrayed, Permanent Collection) directs this play about race, identity, and opportunity, featuring Bay Area favorite Margo Hall in her Aurora Theatre Company debut, along with Tim Kniffin, Rhonnie Washington, Elizabeth Carter, Michael Ray Wisely, Earll Kingston, Patrick Russell, Jon Gentry, and Melissa Quine. TROUBLE IN MIND plays at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley now through October 3 (added performances: September 28, 7pm, September 29, 8pm, September 30, 8pm, October 1, 8pm, October 2, 8pm, October 3, 2pm). For tickets ($10-45) and information the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.

[More: Theater Review: Berkeley has ‘Trouble in Mind’]

More than 40 years after it was written, TROUBLE IN MIND, according to The New York Times, “still has the power to make one feel its anger and humor.” Set during the early years of the Civil Rights movement, it offers a disconcerting yet disarmingly funny look at the inequalities of American life in the 1950’s, and the half-truths we tell ourselves about race relations and societal progress in America. TROUBLE IN MIND follows a cast of black and white actors attempting to mount a production of a “progressive” new play. The play-within-the-play, entitled Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching drama set in the South, written by a white writer and directed by a white director, marks the first opportunity for Wiletta Mayer, a gifted African American actress, to play a leading lady on Broadway. But what compromises must she make to succeed?

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Robert Hurwitt declared TROUBLE IN MIND “a potent opener for the Aurora Theatre’s season…a captivating look at our not-so-distant past that tells us a great deal about the present,” while Karen D’Souza at the San Jose Merury News/Bay Area News Group found the production to be “laced with biting wit…so intensely funny that its stinging condemnation of the status quo hits all the harder.” Chad Jones at Theater Dogs noted, “there’s so much that’s wonderful about this production, it’s hard not to gush… Trouble in Mind has a great deal to say – the fact that it’s more than half a century old hasn’t dimmed its humor, insight or provocation.” KGO Radio critic Jerry Friedman heralded TROUBLE IN MIND as “a magnificent start for the fall season! This play has everything — humor, pathos, excitement and intense acting — and certainly deserved the standing ovation it received. This is really a must-see!”

Following TROUBLE IN MIND, Aurora Theatre Company continues its 19th season with the Bay Area Premiere of acclaimed solo performer David Cale’s new one-man play PALOMINO in October. In January, Aurora Theatre Company presents the second main stage production to develop from its Global Age Project, the World Premiere of Allison Moore’s COLLAPSE, directed by Jessica Heidt; as a National New Play Network World Premiere, the play will be produced at Curious Theatre Company (Denver) and Kitchen Dog Theater Company (Dallas) following the Aurora’s lead production. In honor of Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday, Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross helms Williams’ rarely-produced stage gem THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE in April; additionally, all of the Script Club selections for the season will be plays by Williams. Closing the season is the first American professional production of British director David Farr and Icelandic actor-director Gísli Örn Gardarsson’s thrilling avant garde adaptation of Franz Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS, directed by Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson in June.

Nominated for 27 and winner of 7 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for 2009, Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theater. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, Aurora Theatre Company has been called “one of the most important regional theaters in the area” and “a must-see midsize company” by the San Francisco Chronicle, while The Wall Street Journal has “nothing but praise for the Aurora.” The Contra Costa Times stated “perfection is probably an unattainable ideal in a medium as fluid as live performance, but the Aurora Theatre comes luminously close,” while the San Jose Mercury News affirmed “[Aurora Theatre Company] lives up to its reputation as a theater that feeds the mind,” and the Oakland Tribune declared “it’s all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora.”

More stories, videos, reviews: Aurora Theatre Company on SSC.

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