Theater review: "Troublemaker"
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 23:01
Dan LeBlanc's new play, "Troublemaker, or the Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright" is now playing at Berkeley Rep Theatre. It's a coming-of-age story that we can all recognize; the language/gestures/movements that separate the generations and ultimately identify them. It's appropriate that "Troublemaker" has it's world premier at Berkeley Rep since much of the youth culture of the past three generations has originated here: the music, the clothes and, especially, the progressive politics that originated here are all defining qualities of the East Bay.
"Troublemaker" got it's start in Berkeley Rep's research and development wing called the Ground Floor, a summer residency lab. It's a one-month program that develops and finally showcases new work as part of a commitment to writers and creative artists.
Berkeley Rep offered Dan LeFranc a new-play commission when he first came to their attention in the Ground Floor. It gave LeFranc a chance to refine his script and to work with director Lila Neuberger and a group of actors to develop a visual vocabulary for his wildly imaginative story.
Playwright LeFranc had this to say about "Troublemaker": it's a hybrid between a hyper-stylized action-adventure world and a naturalistic domestic drama. It's been a thrilling challenge to see how these two things coalesce in building the rhythm of the piece—making sure it doesn't get too naturalistic or too slow but also doesn't go too fast for too long. I think when the play is succeeding, you stop noticing the language and you are able to really empathize with the characters. My hope is that we aren't seeing them from a distance, but that we are in it with them. It's really tricky to be playing the style game that we are playing while also wanting audiences to feel like they are on the ground with our boys."
While "Troublemaker" was a portrayal of twelve-year-olds, the three leads were about that twice that age but still have the ability to morph into the roles. Bradley Boatright (Gabriel King) used hyper-stylized, kinetic movements and clipped, street language to bring off his dramatization. A-Hole #1 (Matt Bradley) had a unique way of delivering his lines with a mouth that traveled all over his face and shot them out while his feet did a quick coca dance down below. Loretta Beretta (Jeanna Phillips) who, at 4' 10" tall looked the closest to an eight grader both in size and body language, was the alchemist that acted as the catalyst for the five wily guys who didn't know which end was up most of the time.
Jake Rodrigues's sound design and Alex Nichols's lighting design were of particular note.
"Troublemaker" will play at Berkeley Rep though February 3. Ticket information at Berkeleyrep.org or call (510) 647 2949.