The Arabian Nights

When: Tuesdays, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 18 2009

The latest of several lush and idiosyncratic takes on legends and fables that Chicago writer-director Mary Zimmerman has brought to Berkeley Rep, The Arabian Nights feels looser than others like Metamorphoses and Argonautika, but even the least polished of her pieces is still a gem. Zimmerman doesn't go for flashy yarns like Aladdin and Ali Baba in her adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights, favoring instead moral fables, bawdy comic tales, cautionary love stories, and fart jokes. The countless untold tales are suggested by an impressive if gimmicky sequence in which the ensemble acts out a half-dozen stories simultaneously. The fifteen actors play many parts and also provide the lush music. Ryan Artzberger has a fine animalistic intensity as King Shahryar, but Sofia Jean Gomez's Scheherazade is less captivating as a storyteller than in the way she mirrors the characters in her stories. Through January 11 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). or 510-647-2949

Sam Hurwitt

Price: $27-$71

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