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

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!