Friday, March 15, 2019

"Actually" ☼ ☼ ☼

This is one of those nights in the theatre where the show is very good and the two-person cast is not only excellent but moves with skill along a tiny stage upstairs at the Aurora. If there is a problem, it is that the subject matter is so distressful and one of the characters so cruel, that we left the theatre feeling less exhilarated than we would have liked.

Don't forget racism. The issue of white privilege rears its ugly head and it's not wearing a hat. If the real world doesn't depress you enough, this one will dig you deeper.

Michael A. Curry plays Tom, a freshman at Princeton whose response to a brand new social milieu is to have sex with as many willing young freshman women as possible. We understand him, we see his backstory and we feel for the spot he is in as a good-looking African-American young man in an overwhelmingly white and wealthy university.

Amber, on the other hand, played by Ella Dershowitz, is deliberately over-the-top as an entitled young woman, with an intellect that has gotten her into an Ivy League school but seemingly without a shred of understanding for others, nor any sense of responsibility for her actions. Director Tracy Ward gives Dershowitz an annoying set of body habits and a voice to match. We arrive at a sexual-misconduct charge whose outcome is preordained. It will change the lives of only one of these kids.

For us, with all the interesting dialogue and steps back and forth through time, from the day Tom and Amber meet through their university "hearing," we wish we could feel a little more for Amber. If we liked her a little more we could have a little more empathy for them both. As it is, poor Tom, man. Nothing ever changes.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants THREE STARS to "Actually." It is a fascinating show that requires us to think about a nuanced issue guaranteed to make us uncomfortable. This is what theater is supposed to do, isn't it?

Harry's Theatre Upstairs
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through May 5, 2019

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