"Seeking spiritual enlightenment is a funny occupation in "Acid Test," the new play about Ram Dass at the Marsh Berkeley. That's funny as in peculiar as well as laugh-packed, neither of which should come as any surprise to longtime followers of the LSD, Hindu-and-other-paths enthusiast.
Anyone who ever attended any of his lectures, saw one of his talks in any form or isn't one of the few who survived the 1970s in the Bay Area without reading "Be Here Now" knows Ram Dass can be a very funny man. And the joy at the heart of Lynne Kaufman's new play - another Marsh world premiere - is the deftness with which she captures his playful dance on the edge of one illumination after another. That, and a pitch-perfect performance by Warren David Keith.
The short solo play doesn't attempt to give us a full biography. Though subtitled "The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass," it focuses on a few key, isolated episodes from his life.
"Acid" starts in the present, with Ram Dass crippled by the stroke he suffered in '97 and living on Maui. The bulk of the narrative flashes back to his days as Richard Alpert, psychology professor at Harvard; his partnership with Timothy Leary, their famed psilocybin experiments and their banishment from campus; and to his travels in India and chance meeting with his lifetime guru Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba), who gave him the name Ram Dass ("servant of Rama").
There's more, including the touching tale of caring for his dying father, reflections on his once very active bisexuality, his stroke, Leary's fierce disapproval of Alpert's gay relationships and hilarious stories about playing baseball in Mexico on LSD and about seeing Krishna in the form of a state trooper who's pulled him over for driving too slowly. There's nothing, however, about his Bay Area connections - as a doctoral student at Stanford, teacher at UC Berkeley or many years in Marin.
Kaufman, a San Francisco playwright who seems to specialize in historical figures (Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, James Joyce, Georgia O'Keeffe), hasn't so much written a play this time as an anecdotal meditation. It's a tale as might be told by its subject, full of self-deprecating humor, justifying a long-held grudge and perhaps a little unconscious of what could be seen as ethical lapses at Harvard and the advantages of having a wealthy, powerful father in your corner.
But it's beautifully embodied by Keith in Joel Mullennix's smooth, minimalist staging. Keith slips seductively from the crippled form and aphasic speech of post-stroke Ram Dass to his former conversational style amid tantalizing teeters on the brink of enlightenment. The ease of his transformations makes manifest the lessons of his tale: That we are all one. That the only answer is love. And why we need to be here now.
"—Robert Hurwitt is The San Francisco Chronicle's theater critic.
Daisy in Dreamtime
From Los Angeles Times: “Hits home
with stunning impact… under Simon Levy’s savvy
direction, this Fountain Theatre production infuses history
with visceral urgency… the riveting Lisa Pelikan evokes
a complex, finely nuanced portrait… It’s Anthony
J. Haney’s masterful turn as King Billy that supplies
the show’s heart and soul… the supporting cast
(Suanne Spoke, Lance Guest, Jay Bell and Eve Brenner) consistently
From Back Stage West: “CRITIC’S
PICK! “Extraordinary! Rarely do we find a play like
Daisy in the Dreamtime, it achieves something nearly impossible…
a uniformly stellar cast; Simon Levy’s inspired direction;
Desma Murphy’s magical desert set gorgeously lit by
Kathi O’Donohue… the cornerstone of this production
is the extraordinary performance of Anthony J. Haney.”
From Variety: “Perfection!”
“Captivating! Simon Levy’s intuitive staging,
Lisa Pelikan’s transcendent portrayal in the title role,
an outstanding supporting cast, the hauntingly evocative,
synergistic production designs and the onstage artistry of
didgeridu player Andrew Werderitsch.”
Tolucan Times: “Powerful, Mesmerizing!
Flawlessly presented by the Fountain Theatre… written
with heart, sensitivity… Highly-acclaimed director Simon
Levy has masterfully crafted a stunning production, guiding
his entire cast to gut-wrenching performances… Lisa
Pelikan is absolutely brilliant… a wonderfully hypnotic
and heartfelt portrayal by Anthony J. Haney… Catch this
one! It is truly compelling theatre!”
From KABC Radio: “A POWERFUL NEW PLAY!…
[a] courageous story… superbly directed… Everyone
will enjoy the story of Daisy Bates.”
From TalkinBroadway: "Daisy Bates was
never an official anthropologist, but was renowned for her
study of the Australian aborigines in the first half of the
twentieth century. Now her story is being told in what is
a mostly beautiful, acutely theatrical way in Abingdon Theatre
Company's newest production, Lynne Kaufman's Daisy in the
From CurtainUp: " The
world has long known of the cataclysmic effects Western European
civilization has had on presumably less-sophisticated cultures.
Native Americans, Incans, Mayans, the tribes of Africa have
all felt the weight of the conqueror. The victimization of
the Southwest Australian Aborigines captures our attention
in Daisy in the Dreamtime. A small part of their story unfolds
in this new play based on the true experiences of Daisy Bates
by Lynne Kaufman at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex..."
"Shooting Simone is likely to be top entry in
Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival Kaufman's multi-layered
probe into the half century relationship of philosopher Jean-Paul
Sartre and novelist Simone de Beauvoir is a gem." —The
"Shooting Simone is a consistently entertaining drama"—The
" Strong, witty and provocative"—Kentucky
"An intriguing "Shooting Simone" struck a
resonant chord for festival-goers."— Theatre
"Shooting Simone is a captivating, energetic play that
speaks to men and women today." —The Journal
The Next Marilyn
"Kaufman has something to say and she has a gift at creating
stories that keep your attention and characters who can stimulate
your mind. In less than 90 minutes, she deals with all sorts
of penetrating life issues from romance and blind jealousy
to the balance of power in relationships and the struggle
to understand yourself and your purpose in life."—Jay
Handelman in The Herald Tribune
"Fakes is a fascinating and bizarre story."—The
"Lynne Kaufman has organized her intricate material
with intelligence and taste as well as wit. Freud and Jung
are convincingly confronted."—The London
"Witty dialogue and sharp perceptions. An auspicious
debut."—The Independent Journal
"A delightful play. A witty, acerbic comedy."—Dramalogue
"A remarkable first play. An absorbing production that
moves between satiric comedy and dramatic confrontation."—The
San Francisco Chronicle.
"Kaufman's ability to create very credible New
York Jewish and non-Jewish characters with all their irritations,
disappointments, and affections keeps you engaged from beginning
to end."—The Independent Journal
"Fresh and interestingly complex."—The
Our Lady of the Desert
A delightful look into the spirit of Georgia O'Keeffe.
A play well worth seeing."—The Peninsula
"A polished play, lyrical and filled with unpretentious,
epigrammatic wisdom."—Palo Alto Weekly
Speaking in Tongues
" A portrait of the thin boundary between creativity
and madness. The characters are vivid and the wriiting insightful.
It boasts the kind of fleet drawing room-comedy repartee that
we with associate with a previous theatrical Kaufman, the
author of 'The man who came to dinner.'—S.F.
"An amusing, often riveting script that contains many
scenes of enormous power."—The San Mateo
The Last Game Show
"Lynne Kaufman brought sparks to the stage through her
shifts between game show glitz and serious life questions."—The
"A fascinating production. A very clever format. To
write a play of this complexity as a game show with the grand
prize of eternity is not only unique but delightful."—Intermission.
"The Last Game Show succeeds both as entertainment and
as a stimulus for rumination on important things. A wonderfully
provocative piece."—The Montgomery Journal.
"Absorbing theatre. A television game show pitting two
real-life philosophers against each other with heaven for
the winner and hell for the loser...what a concept!—The
From The Best Reviews: "Even though she has been married twenty years with two
children (teenage Davey and preadolescent Wendy), Los Angeles Community College Professor Julia Benson
feels as if her life can fit inside a packed sardine can. She is unsure whether she loves her husband
Mark or ever did while her dying mother residing in a Bronx slum, tells her to live life to the fullest.
Julia hopes the two-week trip to Greece in which she, another professor Michael, and the office
assistant Sabrina chaperone thirty female sophomores, will lead to some healthy flirting.
The trip proves a bust as Michael spends his time with Sabrina and the natives flirt with the students.
Depressed on the way home, she meets Ted, an oceanic archeologist with his head in the clouds dreaming
of finding Atlantis. As they hit it off, Julia wonders if she should run away to help Ted find his dream
or be responsible to a spouse and two kids who cherish her.
Readers will appreciate the gender bending middle age crisis as Julia has her second identity issue
after having obtained a new role when she returned to school to obtain a Masters and a teaching job so
that she could be a professor not just a wife and mother. That proved not fulfilling enough making fans
wonder whether the delightful protagonist will take flight with Ted or return to her adoring family.
This character driven tale entices the audience because no one is nasty or abusive driving Julia away;
to the contrary her family love her. Lynne Kaufman provides a fabulous tale of a woman on the crossroads
taking stock of where her life is going while readers and her will wonder who she chooses."
From The Word on Romance: "SLOW HANDS
is a story about living each moment, taking risks and embracing
life's most valuable offering: peace. Filled with famous quotes
and sayings, the story imparts knowledge as well as entertainment,
making you chuckle at an apt one-liner or cry with empathy
or joy. Drawn into the lives of two sisters, their friends,
families and all the others, Ms. Kaufman gives voice to those
who are normally silent. SLOW HANDS is a tale of inspiration,
desperation and devotion. Though I am much younger than the
main character, I nevertheless felt I could relate to her
"This book brings to life some important isuses about
being a woman in the modern world. SLOW HANDS is a smart,
intricately woven story that dares to challenge the norms
of society. Filled with courage and uncharacteristic approaches,
SLOW HANDS will stop and make you think."
From Romance Reviews Today: "SLOW
HANDS is a delightful story with many layers. Sara and Coralee
are finely drawn charactyers who have depth and life, and
to whom readers can relate. An interesting and creative story.
SLOW HANDS smoothly winds its way through our imaginations
as we watch Sara and Coralee begin to make sense of their
lives, those lives they thought were just fine until their
mother died. The secondary characters, such as Sara's three
patients and Simon, Slow Hands' manager, are all integral
to the story and add interesting dimension and breadth. Highly
entertaining with a provocative plot, SLOW HANDS kept me amused
with its effortless writing. A perfect summer read, give this
novel a try."
Wild Women's Weekend
For ages the four females would share women's only weekend
together near the Golden Gate Bridge. Sabrina, Maria, Ann,
and Deb look forward to this year as each has personnel trouble
to deal with and escape feels good. At a bar, the four meet
Hughie; Since he needs a place to stay and seems like a nice
chap, they invite him back to spend the night at their lodging.
The next morning they find their guest dead. The quartet decides
to bury the drifter so that they would not have to deal with
The women go on with their lives until a road crew dig up
Hughie's corpse. The FBI begin making inquiries including
questioning the four friends. Will one break and tell the
truth or will they remain in solidarity as evidence mounts
that they may have done more than inter a dead person and
tamper with a crime scene?
This dark comedy will remind readers of the Hitchcock movie
The Trouble with Harry. The story line is action-packed and
fast-paced as the women jump from one disaster into another.
Still the reason the tale is fun is the four pleasant females
each has a distinctive personality that surfaces when they
conduct the funeral service and when the Feds come after them.