Theater Review: All hell breaks loose at Berkeley Rep’s ‘Composer is Dead’

Last night was easily the most trouble-prone opening night I've ever witnessed.

For the holidays, Berkeley Rep presents a deliciously silly world premiere: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle as an inspector investigating a crime in an orchestra of marionettes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
For the holidays, Berkeley Rep presents a deliciously silly world premiere: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle as an inspector investigating a crime in an orchestra of marionettes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
In Review

Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Directed by Tony Taccone
Starring Geoff Hoyle
The Magic of Living, Breathing Theater / The Composer is Dead
Puppeteers: Jenny Campbell, Frankie Cordero, Marta Mozelle MacRostie, Edouard Sanko, Ronny Wasserstrom
Written by Lemony Snicket
Recorded music by the San Francisco Symphony
Film produced by Lisa Cook
Review by
For the holidays, Berkeley Rep presents a deliciously silly world premiere: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle as an inspector investigating a crime in an orchestra of marionettes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
For the holidays, Berkeley Rep presents a deliciously silly world premiere: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle as an inspector investigating a crime in an orchestra of marionettes. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

Last night was easily the most trouble-prone opening night I’ve ever witnessed since we began covering the magic of living, breathing theater here on Stark Insider.

How bad? Well, remember U2’s disastrous live opening in Vegas for PopMart? Or Britney Spears’ wobbly attempt at a comeback performance at the VMAs? Or to put it into theatrical terms you need only look at the recent Spider-Man preview on Broadway which too had more than its share of hiccups.

Let’s see, where to start…?

Well first the audience was distracted, I think it was the cell phone (yet again). The projectionist was lazy on this evening, and some scenes were very poorly lit, even at one point causing a performer to find their own creative solution to see and be seen.

Tony Taccone, who’s largely responsible for raising the profile of the Berkeley Rep to stratospheric levels in recent years (American Idiot, Wishful Drinking) was — and it pains me to say this being the eternal optimist — a bit of a baby on this evening. During the unorthodox “talkback” he actually complained about one of his actors. “This is what I have to work with,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Yes, it was that kind of an evening, bit of a shocker, really. Talk about artistic temperament.

Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead stars Geoff Hoyle. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

And those puppets and all that pre-show hype and publicity turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. “Mr. Fuzzles” we learn is merely a sock puppet. The host egregiously uses the poor fellow to wipe his mouth, before slamming him into a nearby podium. The others that do talk later (and they are beautiful to behold I suppose) are often hard to comprehend. It was almost as if they had speech impediments. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was that kind of evening.

By the time we discover the composer is dead, the show was a certifiable chaotic mess. Someone call the poliiiiiccce!

The Composer is Dead! Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
The Composer is Dead! Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

The music (and I should note this is the first time I’ve seen a 30+ piece orchestra shoe-horned into the Roda; somewhat of an accomplishment in itself) was, as expected, grand. We could, however, use a little less attitude from the violas, who appeared on multiple occasions to be more concerned about their ego than the Waltz. The French horns were sloppy and French. And, cliches abounded when the flutes were used every time little birds fluttered across the stage.

It happens with live theater sometimes, and it was just that kind of evening.

Needless to say I sat enraptured for the entire 85 minute exhibition. Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and is an unusual and silly holiday treat. You can thank Berkeley Rep for that creative vortex on Addison that continues to mesmerize and entertain.

Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead

The Magic of Living, Breathing Theater / The Composer is Dead
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Tony Taccone
Starring Geoff Hoyle
Puppeteers: Jenny Campbell, Frankie Cordero, Marta Mozelle MacRostie, Edouard Sanko, Ronny Wasserstrom
Conceived for the stage by Lemony Snicket and Phantom Limb
Written by Lemony Snicket
Film produced by Lisa Cook
Recorded music by the San Francisco Symphony
www.berkeleyrep.org

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