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Dramatic Emetic 

Wednesday, Sep 1 1999
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Wallace Shawn, it always seems necessary to explain, is the famous New Yorker editor William Shawn's son. He's also that short, whiny guy from The Princess Bride. Or the Algonquin waiter in Mrs. Parker. To survive as a playwright, Shawn has made his living as an actor -- but not one of his bit film roles will prepare you for the plays he writes. (The semi-autobiographical My Dinner With Andre won't, either.) Last Planet Theater starts a monthlong Wallace Shawn Festival in Berkeley this week, and the amount of East Coast edginess, political fury, and blistering marital horror radiating from the Julia Morgan Theater should be enough to drop a vegetarian at 10 paces.

The only hook for the festival is that Shawn is so underperformed. Director John Wilkins has paired two marriage plays -- Our Late Night with Marie and Bruce -- and two political plays -- Aunt Dan and Lemon with The Fever -- for a two-night cycle of one-acts that repeats through the month of September. Our Late Night is a rarity: Outside of two performances in New York and L.A., the script has never been staged. The topics range from a lone man musing on Third World suffering to hellishly inconvenient cocktail parties, but "you can't help but realize these four plays are written by the same person," says Wilkins. "I mean, there's vomiting everywhere."

Last Planet Theater's Wallace Shawn Festival previews Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. (and runs through Oct. 3) at the Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley. Admission is $12-55; call (510) 845-2687. -- Michael Scott Moore

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