Sunday, September 11, 2022


"I'll be gone for awhile. Perhaps forever. It's nothing you did."

This statement comes up twice. Both times it is shocking. Our brains cannot process exactly what it means, though we know it can't be good. Though the title of Jonathan Spector's new show is "This Much I Know," the true undercurrent is that none of us know anything at any time about anyone else. Our brains interpret what they see based on any number of factors, none of them necessarily the facts.

This is an actor's play. All three performers (Rajesh Bose, Anna Ishida and Kenny Toll) play multiple roles, sometimes within the same sentence. Toll, in particular, is forced into Russian-accented English constantly, and each time we find ourselves believing him. We love the scenes where Ishida, playing Svetlana Stalin, or Svetlana Stalin's granddaughter Natalya, is trying to reason with Toll, playing any number of Russian family members or bureaucrats through the generations.

Each character has witnessed something horrifying. Perhaps it is an auto crash, or Stalin's executions, or white supremacy and its inevitable outcome. We particularly enjoyed the scenes where Bose, as a professor, is trying to reason with Toll, as a wavering white nationalist on his college campus.

This is what we call a Whole Ride show, which means the reviewer and his wife discuss the play the whole ride home in the car. After "This Much I Know," we both agreed we weren't sure about anything, except that we loved it. The author allows us each to make up our own mind. It feels good not to be spoon fed for once.

This expression of Anna Ishida's says it all.



The San Francisco Theater Blog Award Division is happy to award "This Much I Know" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. Lukesh, Ishida and Toll earn one star each for their skilled as well as nuanced performances and the Bangle is for Tanya Orellana's absolutely brilliant set design, done with humor as well as craft. This is the World Premiere for Spector's show. It is already well worth the price of admission.

"This Much I Know"

Aurora Theatre

2081 Addison Street, Berkeley

Through Oct. 2, 2022