What you should know about Impact’s What Every Girl Should Know

Sep 13

What you should know about Impact’s <i>What Every Girl Should Know</i>

The first thing to know about Impact Theatre's What Every Girl Should Know, a one-act play by Monica Byrne, is that it's a gripping play about matters physical and spiritual. It's also very well produced by director Tracy Ward and an excellent cast of four. This is a play set in 1914 but feels, rather sadly, of the moment because, it seems, there will always be people (old, white men mostly) who want to keep other people (women, mostly) as ignorant as possible, especially when it comes to their own bodies and – heavens forfend – sex.

Byrne's drama is set in the tight confines of Room 14, a four-bed dorm room at St. Mary's, a Catholic girl's reformatory on New York's Lower East Side. The year is 1914, and the church is the ultimate power for the occupants of Room 14.

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Wrestling affections in Impact’s As You Like It

Mar 03

Wrestling affections in Impact’s <i>As You Like It</i>

p>Shakespeare didn't drop any F-bombs in his comedy As You Like It, but that doesn't stop Impact Theatre. There are lots of non-Shakespeare asides in this highly edited, streamlined version from director Melissa Hillman, but purists shouldn't despair. Such contemporary additions are usually thrown in during scene transitions or to punctuate a joke that has already landed. And they're a hell of a lot of fun, as is the entire 2 1/2- hour show.

Hillman and Impact often draw from the Shakespeare well, but rather serving the plays up straight, they're turned into potent cocktails, with some darker and bloodier than others. With As You Like It, Hillman and her game cast are reveling in relationships. Some of the more Shakespearean touches in the show – like the characters of Jaques the grump and Touchstone the clown don't fare as well because they're too much on the periphery and don't fit in to the gender-bending love stories jumping through hoops in the center ring.

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If it looks and smells like fish, it must be The Fisherman’s Wife

Aug 26

If it looks and smells like fish, it must be <i>The Fisherman’s Wife</i>

You don't really expect Japanese erotic tentacle art to be the inspiration for a feel-good treatise on saving a broken marriage. But that's just what Steve Yockey delivers in the world premiere of The Fisherman's Wife, the season opener from Berkeley's Impact Theatre. Taking his cue from the Hokusai woodcut known as "Dream of the Fisherman's Wife," in which a happy lady is serviced by two octopi, Yockey spins a fast-paced, mostly comic adult fairy tale that begins with an epically unhappy husband and wife.

Cooper Minnow (Maro Guevara) is the titular fisherman. He comes from a long line of successful fisher folk, but he's a failure. His wife, Vanessa (Eliza Leoni), couldn't agree more. She claims her seaside life is "undercooked" and she hurls hurtful diatribes at her husband like, "I was bamboozled by the man I thought you were." Ouch.

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Let’s give Impact’s Titus a big, bloody hand

Mar 04

Let’s give Impact’s <i>Titus</i> a big, bloody hand

Anna Ishida has a scream to remember – the kind of scream that startles your unborn children. She could supplant Jamie Lee Curtis as the Queen of Scream, but until then, she's wreaking bloody havoc in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, this season's revitalized Shakespeare project at Berkeley's Impact Theatre.

Artistic Director Melissa Hillman is particularly adept at trimming a Shakespeare play to its most vital parts and shooting it through with a kind of energy that tends to surprise anyone who has forgotten that, in the right hands, Shakespeare can be lean and mean.

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2011 in the rearview mirror: the best of Bay Area stages

Dec 29

2011 in the rearview mirror: the best of Bay Area stages

Let's just get right to it. 2011 was another year full of fantastic local theater (and some nice imports). Somehow, most of our theater companies has managed thus far to weather the bruising economy. May the new year find audiences clamoring for more great theater.

1. How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Directed by Kent Nicholson

Only a few days ago I was telling someone about this play – my favorite new play of 2011 and the most moving theatrical experience I've had in a long time – and it happened again. I got choked up. That happens every time I try to describe Cain's deeply beautiful ode to his family and to the spirituality that family creates (or maybe that's vice-versa). Nicholson's production, from the excellent actors to the simple, elegant design, let the play emerge in all its glory.

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Gamers roll good theater in Dice and Men

Aug 29

Gamers roll good theater in <i>Dice and Men</i>

Nerd-on-nerd love is something to behold.

It's sweet, it's smart, it's funny – at least it is in Cameron McNary's sharply etched play Of Dice and Men, receiving its Bay Area premiere courtesy of Berkeley's Impact Theatre. McNary boldly goes where no dramatist has gone before him (at least none I've ever seen). He takes his audiences into the world of Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game involving elves, fairies, wizards and the like – exactly the kind of game that gets kids beaten up in high school.

One of the wonderful things about McNary's play is that you don't have to know anything about D&D to enjoy it.

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