At Berkeley Rep, Jim Lichtscheidl stars in the West Coast premiere of Tiny Kushner, a series of short scripts by Tony Kushner. Photographer: Michal Daniel

TINY KUSHNER written by Tony Kushner, directed by Tony Taccone. Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org

October 16 – November 29, 2009

West coast premiere in conjunction with the Guthrie Theatre cast of J.C. Cutler, Kate Eifrig, Jim Lichtscheidl and Valeri Mudek.


In the Bay Area “Playground” is proving ground contest for budding playwrights who submit 10-minute plays on specific topics with the winners receiving a full production performed by professional actors. The Guthrie Theatre, in the process of preparing a Tony Kushner prospective, assembled a group of actors and read 10 or 12 of his short plays coming up with five that seem to fit together. Berkeley Rep Artistic director Taccone was asked to direct and the eventual outcome was Tiny Kushner now being performed with the Guthrie cast members.

You may find it difficult to understand how the five plays fit together. They are often esoteric and intellectual requiring knowledge (in order the plays are performed) of a minor royalty in Eastern Europe, Shakespeare’s sonnets, the tax revolt of New York City Housing Police, Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker, Nixon’s psychotherapist and Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor" segment from "The Brothers Karamazov." Two of the plays do take place in “paradise” after death and a third involves dead Iraqi children so that is a fit. All are extremely well written, with clever, often times hilarious dialog and brilliantly performed. Never the less, by the end of the evening the totality is not really satisfying.

In the curtain raiser, Flip Flop Fly! we are transported to the moon in the great beyond to meet vivacious, happy-go-lucky former recording star Lucia Pamela (Valeri Mudek) and taciturn deposed queen of Albania (Kate Eifrig). Mudak gives terrific performance as the overly optimistic Lucia who eventually wins over the nasty former minor royalty and the play ends in song and dance.

Terminating or Sonnet LXXV or “Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein” or Ambivalence in which a frustrated psychotherapist (Eifrig) tries to disencumber herself of an overly dependent patient (J.C. Cutler). The patient and the therapist have homosexual lovers (Jim Lichtscheidl and Valeri Mudek respectively) who interject their thoughts into the often-hysterical interview process.

East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis: a little teleplay in tiny monologues is based on true events and Lichtscheidl gives a masterful performance playing at least 20 different parts telling the story of the aforementioned 1990 tax evasion plot by New York City policemen.

After the intermission, Cutler and Eifrig return in Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker in Paradise. This time Cutler plays Hutschnecker, Richard Nixon’s psychiatrist and Eifrig an all-seeing “angel” listening to him complain about his five weekly sessions with Nixon. As with many psychiatric interviews, the patient expresses his own insecurities and fears as Hutschnecker digs up his fixation with Hitler.

Kushner is a political writer and his Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy

ends the two hour and twenty minute evening with a devastating indictment of the death of children in Iraq. Laura Bush (Eifrig) discusses Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor" segment from "The Brothers Karamazov" as she prepares to read to invisible ghosts of three Iraqi children. Kushner creates a compassionate Laura Bush and Eifrig gives a heartrending interpretation to the part as the guardian angel (Mudek) acts as a sounding board for the injustice of the war in Iraq.

Dramatic, humorous, intellectual, esoteric and absorbing describe the evening.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of Theatreworldinternetmagazine.com