‘BLASTOSPHERE!’ by Central Works

On Sunday, I made it to closing night of Blastosphere! by Aaron Loeb and Geetha Reddy. I know both of them from PlayGround, and I know both of them to be two of the sharpest writers in town, so I knew I was probably in for a hilarious night. (Or afternoon, to be precise.) But I wasn’t prepared for the clever stagecraft.

I suppose I should have been; I did see Molly Aaronson-Gelb’s name on the postcard. But I’ve seen a couple of shows in the intimate Berkeley City Club theater, and most dealt with the small space by keeping things to one or two locations. This play has, I don’t know, let’s say tons of locations. And yet everything flowed beautifully, as fits the fast-moving story. Just a quick shift of a couple chairs and we move from a church to a fertility clinic to a cruise ship. Awesome.

Central Works is about to kick off its 20th season, and their method of creating plays seems to be working better than ever. I’m sure anybody who reads this blog (except my mom) knows about them already, but if you don’t, bookmark their site. And maybe read Chris Chen talking about their method of creating plays. And go see Blastosphere! when it (surely inevitably) plays somewhere near you.


‘THE WINDOW AGE’ at Central Works


Christopher Chen and I are both in a group alternatively called the Magic Artists Lab or the Magic Theatre Emerging Artists Lab, depending on who sends the email. Chris has also come to several Playwrights Pub Nights, we’re friends on Facebook, and we bump into each other at other people’s plays from time to time.

So I’m a little chagrined that it took me so damn long to make it out to his fascinating play The Window Age. It’s been running since February 21, and I just made it last Saturday, and I’m just mentioning it now, with only three shows left.

As anyone knows who caught his play Into The Numbers at BAPF a couple years ago, Chris is a terrific playwright doing big, ambitious plays (as opposed to the “two dudes hanging around their apartments and the girl that comes between them” plays that a lot of writers in their twenties have to get out of their system) and this one may be the most ambitious yet.

The play takes place in 1920’s England and deals with the birth of three things that collided at that time: Modernism, psychoanalysis and shell shock. In keeping with the subject matter, the play moves from a realistic dinner party to a Virginia Woolf inspired stream of consciousness and then into dreams and the subconscious.

Central Works puts on its shows in the gorgeous Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club, and Chris brilliantly created a play that’s completely at home in that atmosphere. They also develop their plays using the “Central Works Method,” meaning the play doesn’t exist before the process begins and the writer works collaboratively with the actors, director and designers.

I couldn’t imagine how incredible and exhilarating it must be to write a play knowing that it will absolutely be going up in just a few months. That is, I couldn’t imagine it until I read this wonderful essay by Chris on Chloe Veltman’s lies like truth blog. An absolute must-read.

And the play is a must-see. Unfortunately, you don’t have much time left to must-see it. Fortunately, most of the people I know have seen it already. But if you haven’t….

The Window Age by Christopher Chen, produced by Central Works, at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave, Berkeley. Tickets at centralworks.org.

What I Want To See In March

While my January and February were mostly big plays in big theaters, it looks like March is going to be a month of cool little black box theater. I might actually be able to schedule all of these shows that I’m interested in:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Impact Theatre (Feb 12 – Mar 21). Shakespeare goes New Wave in Impact’s 1980s production, selling out like crazy already.
  • Skin by Steve Yockey at Climate Theater (Feb 26 – Mar 21). A take-no-prisoners, humorous and fantastical exploration of lust and fidelity. Directed by my friend Mark Routhier!
  • The Window Age by Christopher Chen at Central Works (Feb 21 – Mar 22). A  play exploring the moment in time when modernism was reframing art, literature and the human mind. Written by my co-Magic Artist Labber Chris Chen!
  • Pure Shock Value by Matt Pelfrey at Killing My Lobster (Feb 27 – Mar 22). They don’t produce full-on plays all that often, but when they do, they’re usually awesome.
  • The Short and Happy Life by Ryan Michael Teller at Sleepwalkers Theatre (Mar 05 – Mar 28). After the incomprehensible death by combustion of his best friend, Manny tries to navigate the monsters looking to capitalize on his story. You know I love this company’s aesthetic.
  • Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno at Cutting Ball (Mar 13 – Apr 05). Five out of four stars from The New York Times, who called Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
  • Lydia by Octavio Solis at Marin Theatre (Mar 19 – Apr 12). A play that amazed audiences and had critics freaking out at its world premiere. Written by my friend Octavio Solis!