Aurora Extends THE LETTERS for Second Time Through June 8
Due to popular demand, Aurora Theatre Company announces that it will add a second extension week of performances of John W. Lowell's suspenseful psychological thriller THE LETTERS, the first fully staged production in the company's second stage performance space, Harry's UpStage. Award-winning Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson (The Arsonists, Salomania) returns to the company to direct this sixth addition to the season, featuring Beth Wilmurt (The Eccentricities of a Nightingale) and Michael Ray Wisely (The Arsonists).
THE LETTERS plays now through June 8 (added performances: Wednesday, June 4, 8pm; Thursday, June 5, 8pm; Friday, June 6, 8pm; Saturday, June 7, 8pm; Sunday, June 8, 2pm) at Harry's UpStage, located in the Nell and Jules Dashow Wing at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($28, $32) and information the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.
A nimbly executed game of cat-and-mouse, THE LETTERS is a riveting two-person drama that lays bare a vivid slice of paranoid life under Stalin. Set in a 1930s Soviet era office, the director in a nameless government agency engages in an "interview" with one of his employees. Anna, a demur buttoned-down servant of the state, has no idea as to why she has been called into the office of her superior. She is wary and tight-lipped, as her job, the systematic practice of censorship and disinformation, has taught her to take nothing at face value. As she tries to figure out the reason for the meeting, details gradually begin to emerge and suspicions are directed towards her. The director seems to have a hidden agenda, or is it Anna who has an agenda of her own?
When asked about what prompted him to write THE LETTERS, John W. Lowell said, "the Monica Lewinsky scandal was unfolding just as I was reading a biography of Tchaikovsky in which the author asserted that the Soviets had employed editors to remove any hint of Tchaikovsky's homosexuality from the man's letters and private papers. Both things represented a scary, insidious reality: the state felt it had a right to intrude into the most private of private matters." For Lowell, "the play came to be about the interests of the state vs. the interests of those who wanted to keep the record straight, so to speak." Although THE LETTERS takes place in the Soviet Union, it is not about the Soviet Union. According to Lowell, "It is about what happened this morning and what may happen tomorrow." With controversies of American government surveillance continuing to unfold, and the recent Russian bill banning the spreading of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, THE LETTERS provides an unsettling reflection of our current times.
Located in the Dashow Wing at Aurora Theatre Company, Harry's UpStage is the company's second stage performance space. Longtime Aurora subscriber and supporter Harry Weininger passed away in May 2010; his family, who knew of his dedication to Aurora, wanted to honor him and made a generous donation to Aurora to outfit the Dashow with a new lighting package, curtains, a stage, and furniture. Harry's UpStage is used for live cabaret and second stage events at Aurora.
Following THE LETTERS, Aurora Theatre Company's season concludes in June with David Mamet's searing drama AMERICAN BUFFALO, directed by Barbara Damashek. Aurora Theatre Company opens its 23rd season in August with the Bay Area Premiere of Obie-winning playwright Gina Gionfriddo's Pulitzer-nominated comedy RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN, directed by Desdemona Chiang. The company presents the West Coast Premiere of Fraser Grace's off Broadway hit BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE in November, directed by Jon Tracy. Barbara Damashek returns to Aurora in January to direct the Bay Area Premiere of Nicky Silver's viciously hilarious Broadway hit THE LYONS. The company pays homage to Lanford Wilson with "The Talley Trilogy" in April with the Pulitzer Prize-winning TALLEY'S FOLLY, directed by Joy Carlin in the company's second stage performance space, Harry's UpStage, followed by FIFTH OF JULY, helmed by Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross. As a special addition to the 23rd season, and completing the trilogy, Aurora will present readings of Wilson's rarely performed play TALLEY & SON in April, directed by Jennifer King. Aurora Theatre Company closes its 23rd season in June with the Bay Area Premiere of Lisa D'Amour's wicked Obie-winning satire DETROIT, directed by Josh Costello.
Voted Best Theater Company in 2012 by SF Weekly, 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, declared "one of the best regional theaters around" by 7x7 magazine, 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 is "arguably the finest small theater in the Bay Area," and the Oakland Tribune stated "it's all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora."