AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Oren Safdie
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Barbara Damashek
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Presenting her graduate thesis project for professional review, the architecture student faces several obstacles: 1. She's female. 2. She's young and attractive. 3. She's Korean American. 4. Her reviewers are hopelessly sexist, ageist, racist and egotistical. 5. She's committed to her project, the structure for a public swimming pool.

Nevertheless, Margaret (M.J. Kang) manages to stand her ground in Oren Safdie's "Private Jokes, Public Places." Presented by Aurora Theatre Company and cannily directed by Barbara Damashek, this 2001 play is well suited to Aurora's three-quarter-round space because the audience is supposed to be students watching the presentation.

The reviewers are two architects, Erhardt (Robert Parsons) and Colin (Charles Dean), along with Margaret's professor, William (Max Gordon Moore), who also serves as the facilitator. Erhardt, a German, and Colin, a Brit, both seem more interested in expounding their own ideas than in crediting Margaret's efforts to create a public building where people will feel comfortable. Erhardt, a postmodernist, and Colin a modernist, also represent two different schools of thought. Thus there's a thinly veiled rivalry between them. Erhardt is especially prone to spouting gobbledygook and psychobabble, but Colin comes up with his share, too.

William tries to keep things on track and even to speak for Margaret at times, but she resists those efforts. She knows what she's trying to achieve, and despite her youth and naivete, she ultimately defies all three of them.

Safdie, the son of renowned architect Moshe Safdie, wrote the play for Kang, his wife. She has appeared in all productions of the play thus far and inhabits the role well. Likewise, the three men succeed with their roles in this satire of the architectural profession. Uncredited is a fourth man who operates the video camera used in the production.

The spare set is by Kate Boyd with lighting by Russell H. Champa and costumes by Brandin BarĂ³n. The play runs more than an hour without intermission.

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