Theater & Performing Arts

Machiavelli's The Prince

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 5 p.m. and Sat., Sept. 19, 5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19 2009

Small gestures reveal big things in Gary Grave's latest Central Works play, which imagines a meeting between Niccolò Machiavelli and Lorenzo de Medici II. Two incredible actors -- the rather diminutive, bespectacled Richard Frederick and taller, more evil-looking Michael Navarra -- play two characters engaged in a complex and delicate contest for power. Machiavelli (Frederick) tries to curry favor with Lorenzo (Navarra) by presenting a "handbook for tyrants" (i.e., an instructional manual on how to inspire fear in subjects, defeat enemies, and lie selectively). Lorenzo then has to choose between moral integrity and political ambition. Rather than create stark contrasts of good and evil, Graves sets his characters in a pressure cooker and lets them battle it out -- often, they use objects in the room (a pitcher of water, a cross, a Ruben's study of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Battle of Anghiari) to transmit emotions. The play is taut and unsettling, and Grave's writing mixes history with fiction in an inventive way. Through Sept. 19 at BerkeleyCity Club (2315 Durant Ave.). $14-$25

Rachel Swan

Price: $14-$25

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