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
http://centralworks.org.

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!

 

BAMBOOZLED

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 centralworks.org, $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 centralworks.org