Theater & Performing Arts

The Composer is Dead

When: Sat., Jan. 16, 2 p.m., Thursdays, Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m., Tuesdays, Fridays, 8 p.m., Wednesdays, 7 p.m. and Sat., Jan. 15, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 15 2011

No task is quite as daunting as turning a children's primer into - ahem - "living, breathing thea-tuh," and few directors have ever made the attempt. But Berkeley Rep helmsman Tony Taccone will try just about any idea that strikes his fancy. His reinterpretation of Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead is a dizzying multimedia affair, developed with the help of Snicket (the pen name of author Daniel Handler) and New York City puppet company Phantom Limb. It's bizarre in the way that children's stories often are, with three seemingly disparate sections held together by comedian Geoff Hoyle, who is, in fact, the play's only human actor. Composer begins with a clown skit, in which Hoyle touts the merits of live performance - even as everything goes wrong. An animated video follows, allowing us all to take a trip backstage and see the cast of incompetents (neurotic stage managers, violent choreographers, crocodile technicians) who pull all the wires. Then there's the scene we've been waiting for: A dead composer slumped over his puppet orchestra, under the wary eye of an investigator (also played by Hoyle) who has to cross-examine everyone. The sets are a picture book come to life. Through January 15 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $17-$73. 510-647—2949 or

Rachel Swan

Price: $29-$73

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