Today Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced an addition to the royally talented cast of You, Nero. Mike McShane - the popular comic who became a regular on Whose Line is it Anyway? - takes the local stage for the first time in more than 20 years to perform in this smart and sassy show. McShane completes a hilarious triumvirate of talent that includes beloved Bay Area actor Danny Scheie and Jeff McCarthy, star of Broadway's Urinetown and voice of Looney Tunes' Michigan J. Frog. Throw Susannah Schulman into the arena as well and you've got enough laughter to topple an empire.
You, Nero, a new comedy written by Amy Freed and directed by Sharon Ott, rules the Thrust Stage this spring. The emperor's entourage also includes Richard Doyle, Lori Larsen, Donnell Hill, Kasey Mahaffy, Maggie Mason, and Sarah Moser. Charles Dean, who was cast in the role of Burrus, withdrew from the production for health reasons. You, Nero begins previews on May 15, opens May 20, and closes June 28. The show is produced in association with South Coast Repertory (SCR), where it debuted in January, and the executive producers of the local run are Philip D. and Shirley D. Schild and the Strauch Kuhlanjian Family. This Roman romp wraps up Berkeley Rep's 2008/09 Season, which was sponsored by BART and Wells Fargo.
"I'm thrilled to be back at Berkeley Rep, and eager to put Tony [Taccone], Sharon, and Amy's generosity to the test," McShane remarks. "After working on London's West End, in touring theatre, and a stint on Broadway, I think it's safe to say that Bay Area audiences possess the enthusiasm, curiosity, and sophistication to place them among the world's best theatregoers - and that's everything for a stage actor. Also I get to pester Michael Suenkel, my former roommate, who is now the Big Cheese at the Rep. [Suenkel is Berkeley Rep's production stage manager.] That's an amusement that money can't buy."
In this new comedy, not only does Nero fiddle while Rome burns, he fills the Colosseum with an incendiary mix of sex and decadence. The egotistical emperor commands a washed-up scribe to create an extravaganza that flatters his regime. But to stage the script he must survive the real spectacle at the palace, where his mother, his mistress, and an entourage of eunuchs play an elaborate game of deceit and seduction. You, Nero is the third collaboration for this talented team: Freed is a Pulitzer Prize-nominee known for clever comedies such as The Beard of Avon and Restoration Comedy, both of which enjoyed acclaimed productions under Ott's direction. Now she lets loose the tigers on a crumbling empire obsessed with shallow celebrities, violent sports, and sensational entertainment. When Rome unravels like it's reality TV, everyone wants to get in the emperor's new clothes.
Mike McShane performed at Berkeley Rep in The Stick Wife in 1988 and Waiting for Godot in 1989. He also appeared at American Conservatory Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, and the Eureka Theatre. McShane has been a regular on Whose Line is it Anyway? and portrayed Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors on London's West End. With David Amram, he recited Jack Kerouac's On The Road for the British Library's celebration of the book's 50th anniversary, and he costarred with Sir John Gielgud and RoseMary Harris in A Summer Day's Dream for the BBC. In the US, McShane acted in the recent American premiere of Dumb Show at SCR, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac with Susannah Schulman. He has been a recurring character on ER and Seinfeld, and is a proud member of The Antaeus Company, LA's classical theatre ensemble.