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Saturday, November 22, 2008

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A long anticipated return visit of a famous Chicago writer/director to Berkeley Rep did not disappoint. After her latest great success with Argonautica, Mary Zimmerman turned to another world classic, The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, comprised of innumerous fables and tied together by the character of Scheherezade—a smarty who escapes death from a bloodthirsty shah by drugging him with her folk tales night after night. The stage for “The Arabian Nights” is set with Moroccan lanterns and Persian rugs (those alone rented for a hefty amount of a hundred grand—scenic designer Daniel Ostling). The cast is handpicked by the director and is indulgingly invested in rhetoric, chanting, acrobatics, song and dance, and even improv pieces that change from one performance to another to keep the never-ending story fresh. The fables are chosen to represent the wide scope of the original, with tragic love accounts intertwined with hilarious anecdotes, and frivolous little plots intermingled with unbelievable moral tales. All in all, throughout the whole show, the viewers remain fully engaged with the delights of masterful storytelling coming alive in front of their eyes. The Arabian Nights runs through January 4, 2009 on Thrust Stage at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. Weekend performances are accompanied by free tasting from wine and gourmet food producers. To learn more, visit Call for tickets and info: 510-647-2949. Photo courtesy of To save her life, Scheherezade (Sofia Jean Gomez) must tell tales to the king Shahryar (Ryan Artzberger) in The Arabian Nights.


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