Around & About--Theater: Last Weekend for 'The Human Ear,' Anton's Well at the Berkeley City Club

Ken Bullock
Thursday April 12, 2018 - 04:17:00 PM

"Her brother ran away from home after their dad died ten years ago in Iraq ...

"Her brother just now returned home after their mother died in an urban atrocity ...

"Her cop boyfriend doesn't believe her brother's story ...

"Lucy isn't sure what to believe, including her own perceptions ... "

"After the shootings at Parkfield--and with everybody reacting to Trump--I thought Alexandra Wood's play 'The Human Ear' would make a good exploration onstage of the effects traumatic events have on an individual's perception, how they reverberate and change how we perceive," said Anton's Well Theatre Company founder, Robert Estes, of the latest play he's directed at the Berkeley City Club, running through this Sunday at 2, the end of an unusually short, two-weekend run.

'The Human Ear' is the latest Bay Area premiere (and a work staged very seldom so far, anywhere in the US) by Estes' troupe--six Bay Area premieres, including a Sam Shepard play, out of eight shows since December, 2014, all but one at the City Club--a remarkable achievement for a company of any size and funding, much less this thoughtful, self-reliant little theater project, a proverbially shoestring operation. 

"It's a great ride, rivetting for the audience to be so close to an intense play," Estes continued. "It follows perfectly in the line of what we've been forging our identity in--an exploration of time, memory, fractured language, subtext ... In that sense, all the plays we've done are part of one bigger play, as our friend, actor-director Norman Gee says, though of course they all stand on their own. 

"And it's intriguing, like a detective story!" 

Estes praises his pair of actors--and Anton's Well has already made a reputation for actor-driven shows--Crystal Brown as Lucy and other female characters, and Louel Senores as Lucy's brother, her boyfriend and other male roles.  

"They both have some difficult acting challenges. Changing roles, we wanted to make the transitions subtly, in Louel's case, mainly by changes in his voice and posture. Crystal's able to ground her character in specificity, so it's not just 'she's crazy' when it gets emotional.  

"The actors never leave the stage during the show. They're like warriors entering the arena!" 

Estes wanted to mention the lighting design by Bert van Aalsberg and also the work of lighting operator Ayumi Nomba: "There's a lot of fast stuff, back and forth, in the play, and Bert's found ways to vary the lighting. The audience can feel the world of Lucy's perceptions. And Ayumi's like the Wizard of Oz--this little person stepping out of the booth after precisely running hundreds of quick cues to dialogue ... " 

Next up for Anton's Well, Sarah Kane's '4.48 Psychosis' in July, followed in September by another Bay Area premiere, 'dirty butterfly' by debbie tucker green, "one of England's most challenging contemporary playwrights." 

'The Human Ear' runs at 8 Thursday through Saturday night's this week, ending Sunday with a 2 p. m. matinee Sunday at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue (between Ellsworth & Dana). Tickets: $17-$20 at antonswell.org