Arts & Events

Theater Review: 'My Recollect Time'--Inferno Theatre at South Berkeley Community Church

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday March 06, 2013 - 04:48:00 PM

" ... the life we couldn't see, but always wanted—wanted so terribly."

'My Recollect Time,' Berkeley playwright Jamie Greenblatt's humane little play about emancipated slave Mary Fields—who posed as a riverman on Mississippi steamers, later working for an Ursuline convent in Montana, where she made a deep bond with the Superior, Mother Amadeus, then (at 60), driving a team of horses to deliver the mail in the wilderness —is in its final week of a premiere by Inferno Theatre, in residence at the historic Arts & Crafts South Berkeley Community Church. 

"Little play" because of its apparent scale of production—three actors take on not quite a dozen roles—and its intimacy, not its historic scope or affective potentiality ... Nkechi, playing the straight-speaking, sometimes profane, sometimes hard-living Mary Fields, brings out her wonderment at the world and her determination in the face of countless obstacles; Valentina Emeri, longtime Inferno collaborator, plays Mother Amadeus (as well as a barmaid in a riverport town) with a lusty knowingness, ever her "employee" Mary's equal and confidante. And Jamie Van Camp, who played Achilles in Inferno's 'Iliad' at the City Club, takes on a plethora of roles, brief but sharply defined, from a slave master to a busking musician and the bishop who oversees the Ursulines' mission. 

"Welcome to the Wild West, but from a woman's perspective," director-designer Giulio Perrone, founder of Inferno, opens his program notes. Heretofore, Inferno's staged originals by Perrone, a broad range of themes, from 'Galileo's Daughters' to 'The Iliad' to an original take on 'Dracula' (Emeri playing the bloodsucking Count). 'My Recollect Time' is the first play by another author, another world premiere, and further extends the range of this remarkable small company into "the hidden history of America"—and a new directness of address, adding to its already considerable accomplishments. 

If you've seen what Inferno can do, 'My Recollect Time' will update and expand on what you know. If you haven't, a visit to South Berkeley Community Church this weekend will introduce you to something refreshing in the Bay Area performing arts scene. (Jovelyn Richards' KPFA radio interview with Giulio Perrone at:

Thursday & Saturday at 8, Friday at 9, 1802 Fairview (off Adeline & MLK—two blocks from Ashby BART). $12-$25. Reservations: 788-1802;