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Beating the Devil

Ever since Brief Encounter blew A.C.T. audiences out of their seats in 2009, Bay Area drama lovers have impatiently awaited a return visit by Kneehigh Theatre, the Cornwall, England–based troupe responsible for that ravishing makeover of the Noël Coward–David Lean film. Their wait will soon come to an end with The Wild Bride, adapted from a Brothers Grimm tale about a girl accidentally sold to the devil by her drunken father. For Encounter, director Emma Rice devised a suave blend of film allusions, music hall drollery, and impacted passion; in Bride, she stretches her story’s emotional sinews, drawing inspiration from the Great Depression, African land mine victims, and American bluesman Robert Johnson. “This time,” says Rice, “there’s dirt and blues and brutality.” The muck-drenched heroine, played by three different performers, wanders a desolate landscape and gets her hands lopped off. Her prince goes to war. But this music-and-dance-rich import at Berkeley Rep is a fairytale, so hands grow back, wars end, and hope rises—if not for a kingdom known as happily ever after, at least for the hard-won triumph of living to greet another day. Dec. 2–Jan. 1, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley, 510-647-2949, berkeleyrep.org.