Aurora Theatre Company (Berkeley) today announced it will open its 23rd season with the Bay Area premiere of Obie-winning playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s (After AshleyBecky Shaw) Rapture, Blister, Burn.

Next up in the 2014-15 season lineup is Fraser Grace’s off Broadway hit Breakfast with Mugabe, directed by Jon Tracy and featuring L. Peter Callender.

Barbara Damashek then returns to Aurora to direct Nicky Silver’s Broadway hit The Lyons, featuring Ellen Ratner.

Aurora pays homage to Lanford Wilson with “The Talley Trilogy.” Acclaimed actress and director Joy Carlin directs the first entry in this series of three interrelated plays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley’s Folly, to be staged in the company’s second stage performance space, Harry’s UpStage, located in the Nell and Jules Dashow Wing. “The Talley Trilogy” continues with Fifth of July, helmed by Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross and featuring Craig Marker. As a special addition to the 23rd season, and completing the trilogy, Aurora will present readings of Wilson’s rarely performed play Talley & Son, directed by Jennifer King.

ALSO ON STARK INSIDER: Theater Review: ‘Bauer’ and the art of not painting (San Francisco Playhouse)

Aurora Theatre Company closes its 2014-15 season with the Bay Area premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Obie-winning satire Detroit, directed by Josh Costello.

The regular season will be staged August 2014 through July 2015 at the intimate Aurora Theatre in the downtown Berkeley arts district.

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By Gina Gionfriddo

Directed by Desdemona Chiang

Bay Area Premiere

August 29-September 28, 2014 (Opens: September 4)

Aurora Theatre Company opens its 23rd season with the Bay Area Premiere of Obie-winning playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s (After AshleyBecky ShawRAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN. Can any woman have it all? After graduate school, Catherine and Gwen chose different paths. Catherine built a career as a rock star academic and media darling, writing books linking Internet pornography with 9/11, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in polar opposite ways, each woman covets the other’s life. When Catherine returns home to look after her ailing mother, a risky game of musical chairs begins as three generations of women struggle with feminism’s foibles.

A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2012.Called “An intensely smart, immensely funny new play” by The New York Times and hailed as Gionfriddo’s “most gleefully heedless and hilariously uncalculated foray into the un-politically-correct thus far” by New York Magazine, this sharp, witty comedy examines the pursuit of happiness in the wake of 20th century feminist ideals.Desdemona Chiang (The Hundred Flowers Project) makes her Aurora directing debut with this unflinching look at modern gender politics.


By Fraser Grace

Directed by Jon Tracy

West Coast Premiere

November 7-December 7, 2014 (Opens: November 13)

Aurora Theatre Company presents the West Coast Premiere of Fraser Grace’s provocative BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE. First produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2005, this recent off Broadway hit was inspired by newspaper reports that Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, severely depressed and convinced he was haunted by the ghost of a dead comrade, sought treatment from a white psychiatrist. Shedding light on Mugabe’s demons, the sessions soon become a precarious power struggle between doctor and patient. Set against the aftermath of colonialism and revolution, BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE delves into the mind of one of the world’s most vilified leaders.

Jon Tracy, who directed Aurora’s productions of Gidion’s Knot and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, returns to helm BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE, called “[a] taut meditation on guilt and power” by TimeOut NY, and about which The New York Times said, “In Mr. Grace’s capable hands, Mugabe rightfully deserves a seat alongside Macbeth, Richard III and other tragic, power-siphoning Shakespearean antiheroes.” Bay Area favorite L. Peter Callender, who previously starred in Aurora’s productions of The Soldier’s Tale and Permanent Collection, returns to the company to play the title role of Robert Mugabe. 


By Nicky Silver

Directed by Barbara Damashek

Bay Area Premiere

January 30-March 1, 2015 (Opens: February 5)

Aurora Theatre Company continues its 23rd season with the Bay Area Premiere of Nicky Silver’s (Pterodactyls, Raised in Captivity) scathingly funny Broadway hit THE LYONS. Rita Lyons is the indomitable matriarch of a family facing a major crossroads. Her husband, Ben, is dying, her son is in a dubious relationship, and her daughter is barely keeping her head above water. Not to mention Rita is desperately trying to redecorate her living room. As the family gathers in Ben’s hospital room, they discover that they’re as terrified of being together as they are of being alone as tempers flare, and vicious accusations replace sentimental memories. Hailed as “Hilariously frank, clear-sighted, compassionate and forgiving” by The New York Times, and “Black-comedy perfection,” byThe Hollywood ReporterTHE LYONS is a deliciously savage, intimate examination of how we cope with loneliness and disappointment.

Tony-nominated director Barbara Damashek, who helmed Aurora Theatre Company’s productions of American BuffaloFat Pig, and Private Jokes, Public Places, returns to direct THE LYONS, featuring acclaimed actress Ellen Ratner, who starred in the company’s productions of After the Revolution and Awake and Sing!For mature audiences.

THE LYONS will be the fully staged anchor production in this season’s Global Age Project, an Aurora Theatre Company initiative that encourages playwrights and directors to explore life in the 21st century and beyond. In addition, several new plays dealing with global age concerns will be chosen from an international pool of playwrights and presented in a series of developmental readings during the run of THE LYONS.


By Lanford Wilson

Directed by Joy Carlin

April 2-May 10, 2015 (Opens: April 9)

In a season dedicated to his memory, Aurora Theatre Company pays homage to one of the most prolific and revered American playwrights of the 20th century, Lanford Wilson, with “The Talley Trilogy.” The first entry in this series of three interrelated plays is the Pulitzer Prize-winning TALLEY’S FOLLY. It’s the Fourth of July, 1944 in Lebanon, Missouri. Matt Friedman, a Jewish accountant from St. Louis, has arrived to plead his love to well-to-do gentile Sally Talley. A rocky courtship the previous summer might have ended when Sally stopped replying to Matt’s letters, but Matt never gave up hope and has showed up unexpectedly at Sally’s home, refusing to accept her rebuffs and fears that her family would never approve of their marriage. Charming and indomitable, Matt steadily presses his case and overcomes Sally’s defenses, telling her his innermost secrets and, in return, learning hers as well. Gradually he awakens Sally to the possibilities of a life together where two wounded hearts can become whole.

Joy Carlin (After the RevolutionBody Awareness, Jack Goes BoatingAwake and Sing!), who played Sally Talley in American Conservatory Theater’s 1979 production of Fifth of July, directs.

This production will be presented in Aurora Theatre Company’s second stage performance space, Harry’s UpStage, located in the Nell and Jules Dashow Wing.


By Lanford Wilson

Directed by Tom Ross

April 17-May 17, 2015 (Opens: April 23)

Lanford Wilson’s “Talley Trilogy” continues on Aurora’s main stage with FIFTH OF JULY. It’s 1977, thirty-three years after Talley’s Folly, and Ken Talley has retreated to his childhood home in Missouri with his partner, Jed, after losing the use of his legs in Vietnam. Traumatized and bitter, Ken struggles to find meaning in his life. As he contemplates selling the family house, family and friends from Ken’s student days at Cal Berkeley descend on the Talley home, helping to bring Ken back from the brink, and decide the fate of the Talley legacy. Alternately funny and moving, FIFTH OF JULY contemplates the illusions of the 1960’s in a bittersweet portrait of the Woodstock generation at the precise moment they realize the fireworks ended yesterday.

The last play chronologically, but the first play Lanford Wilson wrote in what would become his “Talley Trilogy,” FIFTH OF JULY premiered on Broadway in 1980. Aurora Artistic Director Tom Ross (A Bright New BoiseThis Is How It Goes, Edward Albee’s A Delicate BalanceThe Shape of Things) helms. Craig Marker, who starred in Aurora’s productions of The Shape of Things and The Persians, returns to the company as Ken Talley.


By Lanford Wilson

Directed by Jennifer King

April 27, May 4, 11, 18, 2015

As a special addition to the 23rd season, during the run of Fifth of July Aurora will present readings of Lanford Wilson’s rarely performed play TALLEY & SON on the main stage. Set on the same night as Talley’s Folly, this installment takes us inside the Talley house where the spirit of a young family member recently killed on a World War II battlefield watches the dynamics of his extended and very dysfunctional family. As a father and son wrestle for the future of the family business, the play examines a family beset with strains from within and without, and how families can fail each other far more completely than strangers ever could.

Berkeley Playhouse), who directed the staged reading of 2013 GAP prize winner The Bandaged Place, helms this last piece of the “Talley Trilogy” to be written.


By Lisa D’Amour

Directed by Josh Costello

Bay Area Premiere

June 19-July 19, 2015 (Opens: June 25)

Aurora Theatre Company closes the 2014-15 season with the Bay Area Premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s (CherokeeNita and Zita) wicked Obie-winning satire about our uncertain economic times, DETROIT. In a first-ring suburb just outside of an unnamed city, barely middle class Ben and Mary welcome Sharon and Kenny, who have just moved into the long empty house next door. The neighborly connection they find threatens Ben and Mary’s notion of the values that have long kept them on the straight and narrow middle class path as it is revealed that Sharon and Kenny met at rehab, neither is employed, and they don’t own a stick of furniture. As the foursome bonds over backyard barbecues and remembered dreams, the quintessential American backyard party turns dangerous and threatens to destroy more than their friendship.

Challenging assumptions about status, comfort, ambition, and community, and called “A sharp X-ray of the embattled American psyche as well as a smart, tart critique of the country’s fraying social fabric” by The New York TimesDETROIT was a finalist for both the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2010 and ran off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2012. Josh Costello (Wittenberg) directs this explosive dark comedy that brilliantly captures our economic moment.

Monica Turner
Contributor to Stark Insider for tech, the arts and All Things West Coast for over 10 years.