Journalist and playwright Lawrence Wright attempts to get inside one of the "Fourth Estate's" most charismatic, ambitious and infuriating journalists -- Oriana Fallaci -- with his play "Fallaci."

Known for her aggressive interviews with such powerful world leaders as Kissinger, Castro, Khomeini and Qadaffi, the Italian journalist became even more controversial when she wrote an inflammatory book on Islam ("The Looming Tower") following 9/11.

"Fallaci" opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre last weekend. Deftly directed by Oskar Eustis, the play features Concetta Tomei as Fallaci and Marjan Neshat as Maryam, the journalist sent to interview her.

Maryam, an obit writer, manages to gain entry to Fallaci's apartment only to be rebuffed by the renowned journalist, who is supposedly dying of cancer. Maryam persists and the two develop a feisty rapport. Fast-forward three years; the attack on the World Trade Center has happened and Fallaci is still alive and just published "The Looming Tower."

Now a writer of some note, Maryam returns to complete her obit interview. But, now the power has shifted, with Maryam in control and Fallaci more nostalgic as her cancer begins to take over.

Wright then has another transition that seems over-the-top, ending the play on a melodramatic note.

Despite the almost deus ex machina conclusion, "Fallaci" is still a fascinating work, especially given Wright's skill with dialogue and Eustis' clever blocking that utilizes every nook and cranny of Robin Wagner's nicely wrought set.

Tomei captures all the complexity of Fallaci, managing to give a glimpse of her vulnerability even at her most confrontational.

Neshat has no problem going toe-to-toe with Tomei, as her character transitions from naive obit writer to a controversial journalist in her own right.

The 90-minute play (with no intermission) continues through April 21. Call 510-647-2949 or go to www.berkeleyrep.org.

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    It may be happening at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, but according to Steve Kinsella, it will be a grand night for singing as the Kinsella Theater Group and Broadway Under the Stars combine for a nostalgic exploration of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

    "A Grand Night for Singing" takes place at 3 p.m. March 24, at Del Valle Theatre, 1963 Tice Valley Blvd. in Walnut Creek.

    Directed by Kinsella, the cast features such standouts as Richard Howarter, Sharon Sprector, Michael Verzosa, Leah Tandberg Warren and Arielle Werner.

    "With hardly any dialogue, the show flows seamlessly from song to song and includes excerpts from some of the most lovely Broadway shows of the Golden Era," says Kinsella. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

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    "Jersey Boys" opened at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco last week, and if the opening night audience is any indication, it's in for another successful run.

    I saw the show on its first tour in 2006, and this production has added its own nuances to the story of four young Jersey boys and how they overcame a myriad obstacles to make it to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

    The catchy tunes still keep your toes tapping as four powerful singers (Nick Cosgrove, John Gardiner, Michael Lomenda and Miles Jacoby) sing their hearts out.

    Cosgrove as Frankie Valli sings practically nonstop and comes close to Valli's famous falsetto tones. Also impressive was Tomasso Antico, who as the understudy, played songwriter Bob Gaudio (usually portrayed by Jacoby) on opening night without missing a beat.

    This slightly younger cast brought a youthful exuberance to the production but didn't miss a beat creating emotionally solid characters.

    The show starts with a hard rock number that fades to the gentler, more romantic songs of the early 1950s when a group of boys from Jersey sang on street corners hoping to get noticed. And, get noticed they did.

    In between the heartache of failed marriages, drugs and gambling, The Four Seasons made so many memorable hits -- "Sherry Baby," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Big Girls Don't Cry," to name just a few.

    "Jersey Boys" continues at the Curran through April 28. A limited number of $40 orchestra rush seats are available two hours prior to performance. For a nostalgic trip back to a more romantic time, call 888-746-1799 or go to www.shnsf.com.

    Reach Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com