The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective – Is Jack the Ripper Back?

VicLadies-Zvaifler_Ross_Bearce-1Another day, another body, could Jack the Ripper be back? In The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective sisters Loveday (Stacy Ross) and Valeria (Jan Zvaifler) run a boarding house in which many of the neighborhoods theater actresses live. One by one they turn up dead. The fear results in less patrons, and inevitably a cut in pay for the actors which leads Katie (Chelsea Bearce), an American actress and lodger, to ask Valeria for a break from her rent.

Loveday who was once an actress herself, is alone when Katie arrives. She notices Katie’s curiosity over the research she’s been doing to find the murderer. Loveday tries to reach out to police to no avail. as the Constable (Alan Coyne), spends more time pointing out the supposed inadequacies of the female gender than solving anything.  Loveday and Katie have no choice but to take matters into their own hands with some financial help from Valeria.

VicLadies-A.Coyne_-1As the show progresses the audience is taken on a whodunnit roller coaster. Was it Jasper, the butcher, the police themselves (all  played by Alan Coyne)? Jasper is exceptionally triggering as he’s not only sexist, but also a rapist. Ladies being able to take care of themselves and having their own thoughts is too much for the men to handle. They constantly belittle women physically and mentally. This only strengthens the women and their goal of finding the murderer, to protect themselves and future victims.   

All the actors are wonderful and Chelsea Bearce as Katie often steals the show. She has multiple types of martial arts training including Tessen, based on the use of the solid iron fan or the folding iron fan. There is a serious tone to many parts of the show given the storyline, but not without some humor at the outrageousness of the men and their small egos. The show is written by the local award-winning  playwright Patricia Milton and  directed by Gary Graves. This is their fifth writer/director comic collaboration.

Update on May 16th: The show has been extended for 4 more performances!

May 4–Jun 9
World Premiere #63: from the Central Works Writers Workshop

Advance tickets are $22-$38 online or $38–$15 sliding scale at the door. For information, extended dates and tickets, visit

Bamboozled – Kicks off Central Works 2018 Season

Central Works opening production of its 2018 season, Bamboozled by award-winning playwright Patricia Milton, has been extended through March 25th (originally scheduled to close March 18). Milton is a Resident Playwright for Central Works and a long-term member of the Central Works Writers Workshop. Bamboozled is Central Works 58th world premiere.

Jeunée Simon as Abby

Jeunée Simon as Abby

Bamboozled tells the story of Abby (Jeunée Simon), a black appraiser from Los Angeles who’s touring with the show “Antiques Roadtrip.” While traveling in the south – Shelby County, Tennessee, she becomes involved with a man who’s Aunt, Opal Anne (Susan Jackson), accuses her of defrauding the family by appraising her family heirlooms (Confederate artifacts) at 60,000 and then selling them for a million to a museum.

Opal Anne, manages Civil War reenactments and sees the Confederacy and her family’s involvement as a positive legacy. She justifies her family history of slave ownership by claiming they were treated nicely and were simply “field hands” who were provided with food and clothing. In her mind, they were the ones that suffered during the war and are being attacked in current times.

Abby is looking to trace her roots and ends up meeting Savannah (Chelsea Bearce) at an archive library. When Savannah is made aware of Abby’s lawsuit she refers her to her place of work where she ends up with Rochelle (Stacy Ross) as her lawyer. Savannah does minimal tasks for Rochelle due to her being barred after being a target of racism at a nightclub that Rochelle represented her and her partner in.

Stacy Ross as Rochelle & Chelsea Bearce as Savannah

Stacy Ross as Rochelle &
Chelsea Bearce as Savannah

Rochelle is interested in gaining a public personae a la Gloria Allred and makes excuses for the negative results of her approach to Savannah’s case. Rochelle faces prejudices of her own as a lesbian but it was nice to see the fact pointed out that white gay women may face prejudice but it’s not the same prejudice that a person of color faces, even worse for gay women of color, you can’t take off or cover up your skin. For instance, there’s a protest outside by white supremacists and it would be a risk for Abby to get to her car however, Rochelle can get it for her without incident.

Another topic not often touched upon is how black women from different regions deal with racism. The two black characters in the play have different views of what is and isn’t important. Abby believes historical items should be preserved and Savannah thinks they should be taken to the trash and forgotten. Savannah has less expectations of white people than Abby seems to. There’s several microaggressions realistically infused into the show and Abby’s reaction is one of shock but Savannah’s reaction is one of no surprise at all. 

Susan Jackson as Opal Anne

Susan Jackson as Opal Anne

There are many things touched upon on this show in addition to racial bigotry in the United States, the legacy of slavery, and prejudice against gay women. There’s a moral component that touches upon self-interest and how each person rights a wrong. “Most of my plays deal with what we value, and what it costs us,” says playwright Milton. “The premise of Bamboozled is simple: we live in a country haunted by slavery and the Civil War. The nation emerged from conflict burdened with trauma and resentments. We have, in the generations since, continued to sustain unjust systems directly traceable to the institution of slavery. I wanted to write a play that challenged stereotypes we hold of the South, North, and West. I wanted to write a play about Southern women that didn’t erase women of color. I wanted to write a play that might start a conversation about our nation’s systemic economic injustice, stemming from our cotton slavery past.”

The cast was great but Chelsea Bearce and Stacy Ross really made the show. Their characters were also fleshed out more than the others as we learned about their past, their struggles, their various viewpoints and their sense of humor. The play is a perfect conversation piece about where we are today. It’s funny without devaluing the countries current truth, racism is alive and kicking, not in the past. Don’t miss it!



A new comedy about family valuables

written by Patricia Milton and directed by Gary Graves

Feb 17 – Mar 25  EXTENDED Central Works opening production of its 2018 season

(originally scheduled to close March 18).

At: The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley.

Performances: Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 5 pm

Ticket prices: $30-$35 online at, $35–$15 sliding scale at the door.

Previews and Thursdays: available seats are pay-what-you-can at the door.

Tickets & info:  510.558.1381 or


Strange Ladies

Group-ReneeR-e1508179473659Strange Ladies written by Susan Sobeloff and Directed by Jan Zvaifler couldn’t be more timely. As old issues are being brought to the forefront by the current administration, the play is a good reminder of how we’ve (women) have always been fighting for basic rights as human beings. Even though we’re half the world’s population!

The play takes us back to a group of Suffragists fighting for the right to vote in 1917. They are the third generation of women working to get the vote. Each group of women was quieted. However, this group changed all that when they started picketing the White House after President Wilson dismissed them, an action that had never been attempted before. Most of the women are arrested and sent to Occoquan Workhouse Prison. They are forced to choose between their families and freedom. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of their imprisonment.

The goal of each woman is the same, get the vote, but what inspires them varies. Rose (Gwen Loeb) wants to fight for labor unions. Vida’s (Radhika Rao) sister passed away while involved in the movement and is convinced to continue in honor of her by the other ladies. Lucy (Regina Morones) is looking towards the future and what kind of world she wants for her children. Harriet (Millissa Carey) bows out of the movement after War World I starts. She claims that they are adding stress to the President’s plate and loyalty to him is more important than loyalty to themselves and their rights. One character points out the hypocrisy of her point; supporting something they had no say in voting for.

Temptation-e1508180415532A story often not told is that of Mary (Nicol Foster), she knows the power of the vote and wants to end segregation in all States. As a woman of color there’s a distrust that’s expressed since their voices are often left out or used for the end goal that so often ends up only including white women. There is also Vida and Rose, who have an intimate relationship that the other ladies may or may not know about. The identity of lesbians is also often missing in history because of stigma. 

Alice (Renee Rogoff) is one of the leaders of the movement and the only one to not get arrested. She keeps up the momentum as best as she can and also spreads the word of what the women are going through while in prison. Their limits were tested in an attempt to quiet them, but the prison failed at their goal. We see them grow physically weak during a hunger strike but their spirits only get stronger. They were given the nickname “Strange Ladies” after enduring the harsh conditions the prison was known for.

Rose-Vida-e1508179712500The actresses were stellar and had great chemistry with each other. You could see and hear the emotion that they felt for their characters.  The play also features period music with musical direction by Milissa Carey who also plays Harriet. In hindsight, it’s been less than 100 years since women have had the right to vote. Even longer, for women of color who faced additional obstacles that kept them from voting. It’s an essential story in our history and seeing it come to life is a great way to keep the memory of the women before us alive. Sobeloff did a great job in representing as many voices as she could in such a short time frame. You’ll leave the theatre inspired.


Performing at the Berkeley City Club 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley
Tickets: $30 online at or $30 – $15 sliding scale at the door.

Previews and Thursdays are pay-what-you-can at the door.
For more information call 510.558.1381 or visit



Edward King presented by Central Works

CW-EdKing-jpm3-1Central Works newest production, “Edward King”, leaves the audience guessing and laughing at the unraveling of a mystery fueled by a bad dream. Edward King (John Patrick Moore) is a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. He’s been married to Jo (Michelle Talgarow) for approximately 20 years whom he has a daughter with that’s away at college. Jo works late nights at Bob’s Big Boy and often falls asleep while watching the X-Files after her shift. They are in debt but determined to pay for their daughter’s studies, as she will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Their life is a tireless routine until Edward dreams of a masked figure (Jan Zvaifler) that tells him he’s married to his mother.

CW-EdKing-jaz2Edward begins to internalize every bad thing that’s said or done. A dog attacks him on his route frequently and he exclaims to Jo that it’s only him the dog hates. A mysterious mold starts growing in the basement and the inspector says it can only be corrected by demolishing the house for $58,000; it must be a mystical punishment because he’s a bad person. His daughter has left a message that she’s not coming home for Thanksgiving because she’s decided to disown them.

The stress is amplified by the fact that he can’t get past his mommy/son dream and he decides to go see a psychiatrist (also played by Jan Zvaifler) during his lunch break. She relishes on the fact that he appears to have a textbook case of the Oedipus complex, a Freudian theory in which a child has an unconscious sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex. Not entirely textbook as he’s waaaaaay past the age of this theory. The therapist tells him the basis of the story and name, Oedipus, the Greek legend that unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.

CW-EdKing-mt-2Edward starts to convince himself that he’s indeed married to his mother and that’s the reason why bad things are happening. He’s being punished for an unknown sin. I mean, there was that one time the man who raised him told him he wasn’t his son, the mold spreading in his and his wife’s house, his wife’s age and a past finally revealed. They all point to the bad dream being true in Edward’s head. He takes it to the point where he secretly takes a swab from her mouth while she’s on one of her X-Files power naps. What did the results say? You’ll have to go watch to find out.

The Central Works Method Comedy
“Edward King” Extended through June 18!
by Gary Graves
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley

Pay-what-you-can: preview performances and every Thursday!



Years in the Hundreds presented by Central Works

cct-hundred-0302-01Central Works opened its 27th Season with Years in the Hundreds by Jesse Potterveld. The story revolves around twin sisters who have lived together for half a century. They are dressed alike and talk about taking turns when it comes to going out in the world because they can’t be seen together. The audience is fed breadcrumbs as to what is going on.

A little sibling rivalry is brought up conjuring up laughs as to whether or not a minute makes a difference when it comes to entering the world, technically you’re older, but does it make a difference in life experience? Inez (Anne Hallinan) the more serious twin seems to think so, while Jessie (Tamar Cohn) just takes everything in stride. What is the fascination with identical twins anyway?

CW-Years-TC_AR-e1487726668868As one speculates with each scene, multiple secrets begin to be revealed after the arrival of Marcus (Adam Roy), a 20-something year old seeking the attention of Jessie. He visits their home and finds Inez alone. Unaware that her sister knows him (and he that Jessie has a twin), she starts screaming and running around the house in search of a weapon to protect herself. His relationship with Jessie thickens the plot and some 50 Shades of Grey is revealed. The layers are peeled back one by one and the identical twins couldn’t be more different. The story is as much about deceit and revenge, as it is about love.

CW-Years-AR_AH-e1487726835173Hallinan and Cohn gave great performances as the twins. Roy was good as the naïve boy toy but the lines he had to give about love were a snooze fest. The rest was suspenseful, humorous and certainly made you think about “twin culture” and the implications of deceit on such a unique relationship that only other twins might be able to understand. One thing I can tell you, you’ll never see an older woman and assume that they are innocent after this play. Yes, even grandma has secrets and desires.


At: The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley.

Performances: Thurs., Fri.& Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 5 pm

Ticket prices: $30 online at, $30–$15 sliding scale at the door.

Subscriptions: Starting At ONLY $54

Tickets:  510.558.1381 or

Into the Beautiful North at Central Works

Photo by J. Norrena

           Photo by J. Norrena

Central Works’ closes its 2016 season with new play, “Into the Beautiful North“, written by nationally known playwright Karen Zacarías and based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea. The script is inspired by the classic Hollywood western “The Magnificent Seven,” which was adapted from Kurosawa’s, “The Seven Samurai”. With the multitude of theatre choices in the Bay Area it’s hard to find one that illustrates the life of Latinos. This one fills that void, at least for a short term.

The main character, Nayeli (Samanta Yunuen Cubias) and friend/boss Tacho (Rudy Guerrero) are harassed by a pair of drug dealers at their work, “La Mano Callida”. A cheeky name referencing the stereotype that all gay men have limp wrists. When Nayeli tells her aunt Irma (Leticia Duarte) who’s running for Mayor of the incident, it dawns on her what needs to be done. They need to go to United States to find Seven Magnificent Mexican Men to bring back and help defend the land. All the local men have gone to the United States to find work including Nayeli’s father who she aims to find first.

The journey begins with Nayali, Tacho and her best friend Vampi (Kitty Torres). There’s a lot of humor in the play without shying away from an honest look at the outside politics that are a detriment to the peaceful life the characters could have if they didn’t exist. The corrupt police force, border patrol cover-ups, sexism, homophobism, and internalized racism. It’s also a coming of age story as Nayali and Vampi go through the angst of teenage hood. They not only find the men they’re looking for but their strength. They realize they don’t have to define themselves by their past or current situations. Nayali finds out her dad is not who she thought he was and Vampi is a recent orphan who feels she’s alone in the world leading her to cynicsm.

A poignant part in the storytelling is the pointed out fact that immigration is often out of desperate necessity. As they search for these Seven Magnificent Mexican Men we hear little tidbits of what the men they end up auditioning want in life and why they left. They just want to be able to make a living, be with their family, and maybe some fishing. In other words, they just want to be safe and have options. Leaving your home is not always a desirable choice. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are vilified for trying to survive. 

The theatre did an excellent job in working with such a small space. The audience seating covered three sides of the room. The stage direction allowed them to make a connection with each side and the actors didn’t shy away from making eye contact with audience members. It was an interesting experience and worked extremely well. The actors were excellent and although there was a stumble here and there, to be that close-up to the audience and still remain in character is impressive. You have time to catch this wonderful show as it has been EXTENDED Through Nov 20!

Directed by:
Gary Graves

Performing at:
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA

$30 online at or $30 – $15 sliding scale at the door.Previews and Thursdays are pay-what-you-can at the door.

For more information:
Call 510.558.1381 or visit    

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere