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Ashby Stage, Berkeley, Calif.
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Set in a small Puritan settlement in 1665 Virginia, Mark Jackson’s new play “resonates with issues that Americans are still fighting about,” said Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle. Revolution was still a century away, yet King Charles II and his oppressive trade policies—which forced farmers to sell tobacco at a loss to a few wealthy merchants—were already breeding resentment. This provided the fodder for what may have been the first play performed in the British colonies: William Darby’s Ye Bare and Ye Cubb. Though the script no longer exists, we can easily imagine why a satire about a bear that refuses to give its offspring honey would ruffle some feathers. While Jackson’s version of the old play “isn’t much,” the intrigue that surrounds the play’s performance proves “inspired.”
Jackson cares less about Darby’s play than about creating “a rich portrait” of the community that gave rise to it, said Lily Janiak
in SFWeekly.com. Each character is remarkably complex, from the charismatic playwright (Carl Holvick-Thomas) to the sanctimonious judge who tries Darby and his players for sedition. Yet it’s the judge’s unusually bold daughter, Tryal, who really propels the story, throwing herself into Darby’s play with the same fervor that she once gave to writhing public church confessions. As played by the luminous Juliana Lustenader, Tryal is the only character brave enough to call others out for their hypocrisy, and she does so “with all the righteous force of an underdog giving history’s fat cats their long-due comeuppance.”
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