Arts & Events
There seems to be something erotic about politics. Kissinger said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Hell, even the open SF Sex Club is named “The Power Exchange.”
THE EDUCATION OF A RAKE at Central Works through August 26, like the Hogarth painting it invokes, paints the progress from his top-of-the-heap to his walk-of-shame from the inside. When I watch the procession of Spitzers and Weiners, I always want to be a fly on the wall in the bedroom and boardroom preceding the parade and this 65 minute drama gives us an imaginative keyhole view.
William Bivins has written a complex and stimulating situational play about a young and dashing Congressman who is in the vanguard of pushing through the Equal Rights Amendment.
However, his personal philandering seems to be in opposition with his espousal of the Feminist cause and quickly becomes a potential source of scandal that might doom its passage.
It is a short play—a little more than an hour—but very fulfilling in its conflict and exploration of the personal, political, and psychological labyrinth of the three characters.
Director Jan Zvaifler has cast it well and moves the actors around the small space in the Berkeley City Club with naturalistic aplomb. The direction of intention as well as movement is invisible, which is a compliment to the director.
The set is a classy white carpet, two stylish black leather chairs. In the preset, the chairs are bedecked with a hot red bra on one and matching panties on the other. It sets the mood well. The lighting and sound supports the drama invisibly and effectively.
The investigation into political ambition, suppressed anger, and the hubris of the inability to apologize is at the core of the drama.
His wounded lover threatens exposure while his older female mentor/lover negotiates.
The philosophical part is the disparity of views between the women. The young injured woman has a world view that denies equality: that men and women are different, the playing field should not be artificially leveled, and that the clash and meld of the lingam and the yoni rules the universe naturally.
This world-view dumbfounds the elder politician woman as a reversal of 100 years of feminist progress.
The trio of actors is outstanding: Eric Reid has cinematic charisma in his mixed race good looks, easy naturalism, and compelling sexual allure. Mr. Reid is alternatively full-of-himself, seductive, wheeling-dealing, threatening, while he rails against being humbled by a woman; though the turmoil does not dampen his reflexive flirting with any new, nubile passer-by.
Gabrielle Patacsil too, has a naturalism and sexuality that matches his, not traditionally beautiful but with looks that are difficult to turn the eye away from, and Ms. Patacsil is wholly convincing in the “hell hath no fury” role that comes from a broken heart. In one cinematically staged moment, in an over-the-shoulder shot by Director Zvaifler, her cowering before his unseen fury wrenches the guts of anyone who has been in that situation.
Sally Dana* is sly, wise and practiced in the juggling act between personal and professional, with a womanly beauty that easily makes it believable that she and the Congressman are lovers. Ms. Dana plays well the comedy Bivins includes, but sometimes comes close to playing it for laughs.
Central Works once again displays why it won the prestigious Paine Knickerbocker Award in 2011, named for the former theatre critic of the S.F. Chronicle, and presented annually to a person or organization that has made a continuing contribution to Bay Area theatre. Its continuing nurturance of new plays produced in a grand if diminutive space is a Berkeley treasure. It is hard to imagine not liking this play, and it will surely give you something to chat about afterwards.
THE EDUCATION OF A RAKE by William Bivins
Directed by Jan Zvaifler
At Central Works through August 26
At the BERKELEY CITY CLUB, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m. & Sunday at 5 p.m.
www.centralwork.org / 510.558.1381
Costumes by Tammy Berlin, lights by Gary Graves, sound by Gregory Scharpen and stage management by Stephanie Alyson
WITH: Sally Dana*, Gabrielle Patacsil and Eric Reid
John A. McMullen II is a member of SFBATCC. Editing by E J Dunne.