Monday, April 25, 2022


The acting in Cleavon Smith's "The Incrementalist" is first-rate. Each of the four characters has an important role to play and all are central to the show's theme. Sam Jackson as firebrand Raz, Anna Marie Sharpe as Raz's girlfriend Miriam, Cathleen Riddley as Nina, the college administrator and Michale J. Asberry as Thomas, a successful author chosen by Nina to try and quell student unrest, gets a moment to shine. The ensemble work between Jackson and Sharpe is especially fun to watch. Judging by audience reaction at the World Premiere on April 21 at the Aurora, the show may have a successful future.

Be prepared, however: the Aurora's audience sits in a U. The dialogue between the two younger women is difficult to understand, especially if you are seated, as we were, on one of the two sides. We heard a lot of muffled uptempo exchanges as we stared at the actors' backs. Often, an inaudible line (for us) brought forth laughter from the audience, or even "Uh huh! That's right!" We advise getting seats in the middle of the U. 

There are problems. The show is long, short on action and overly talky, especially in Act Two where the author attempts to tie together loose ends, but instead just confuses everything that came before. We will not give away any plot points here, but...really? Nina is...who? Raz...what?

The overarching issue, of the constant struggle between moving forward incrementally ("Incrementalism") and tossing out the present to start over ("Revolution"), has not changed since the first politicians crawled out from the prehistoric muck. Those who have will always resist the urgings of those who don't. And everyone has a price.  Author Smith seems to be telling us that Incrementalism is fine as long as the payoff is large enough. 


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Incrementalist" TWO STARS. We understand that a World Premiere means just that -- the show is brand new. Change will come, incrementally to be sure. The show's premise is strong. Now, let's breathe some more life into the motivations of the characters. 

The Incrementalist
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley
Through May 15, 2022