Saturday, June 22, 2013

"This it How it Goes" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

This is how this review goes: we can't tell you anything about the plot. Neil LaBute's 2005 "This is How it Goes," currently running at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre, is vintage LaBute: relentlessly angry and fiercely clever. On its face, the show is about conscious and unconscious racism, but deceit is at its core. The superb cast of three (Gabe Marin [Man], Carrie Paff  [Woman] and Aldo Billingsley [Cody] makes us fidget in our chairs. Three thirty-somethings living in an un-named midwestern town, they think they have a handle on things. But they don't. And neither do we, until the very end.

Marin is the clueless narrator. Warning: not so clueless. Paff is the wronged wife. Warning: you don't know the half of it. Billingsley is aggressively terrifying. Warning: The guy always gets what he wants.

There are plenty of inside theater jokes -- the children, for example, who are never seen. Marin breaks through the fourth wall to tell the audience how difficult it is to work with children, what with tutors and the union and all, so we're not going to actually see them during the performance. His narrations take place in dim light (cleverly realized by lighting designer Kurt Landisman), then the lights come back up and Marin flashes immediately back to character and the action proceeds.

We don't want to give away the many turns in the plot, but we can say this: there is a string of racial slurs that may feel gratuitous and out of place. Later, when you think about what has really happened, and how Gabe Marin's Man really feels about Aldo Billnglsey's Cody, the language becomes understandable, if not very nice.

But racism isn't nice, nor is getting what you want at any cost. It's a great show, but you'll be glad you can walk out onto Addison Street and buy a Street Sheet.

RATINGS: ☼  ☼  ☼  BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "This is How it Goes" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The BANGLE first: Playwright LaBute has the guts to write plays that talk about big issues. We are grateful both for that and for a script that keeps us involved and surprised. All three actors are excellent, though we could use a little more of Man's backstory. Who is this guy? I mean, honestly? Cody and Woman, we get.

"This it How it Goes"
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through July 21

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