A dysfunctional circle of relatives amassing: Joe Estlack as dad Freddie, Jack Wittmayer as son Erik, Marilee Talkington (rear), as Freddie’s spouse, Joie, and Mariah Citadel as his sister, Andi.

Pictures via David Allen

Mark Jackson is known as some of the Bay Space’s so much adventurous and a success playwrights, however the pursuit of clean demanding situations all the time consists of an section of possibility. Climbers every so often slip. With Little Erik, his variation of Henrik Ibsen’s hardly produced household drama Little Eyolf, Jackson slips badly.

A trifling eighty mins in duration in its global most effective at Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, the difference strips away Ibsen’s ponderous and repetitious discussion and replaces it with twenty first century language however leaves most effective skeletal characters, flimsy motivations and little persuasive human interplay.

Most likely to exchange for such typical dramatic parts, Jackson — who additionally directed — injected mystical parts that every now and then land with blockbuster energy, way to the skilled use of sound, lighting fixtures and track. However even that side is going bitter within the play’s end, a trembling flip of occasions that can fee because the granddaddy of two,500 years of deus ex machinas. The twist closes a incorrect drama on a word so absurd that it has to attract giggles or laughs.

Set in an idyllic mountain retreat someplace north of San Francisco, the play revolves basically round a married couple whose as soon as-passionate dating has became ice chilly. For a few years their handiest bond, it kind of feels, has been their crippled younger son, Erik.

The intensity in their parental linkage is shallow at highest, then again. Mom Joie (Marilee Talkington) admits to disdain for bearing and rearing youngsters, who prefer as an alternative to dedicate her energies to a top-tech profession that helps the circle of relatives in grand taste. Father Freddie (Joe Estlack) develops a deep, even obsessive, hobby in Erik most effective after disappearing for 6 months in far flung mountains in a futile fight to put in writing a unique approximately human duty.

After the kid drowns within the local river, their expression of grief takes the type of overall self-absorption, with little fear for each and every different and little touch among them.

The performances are most probably as efficient as their scant discussion and the jobs’ inflexible temperaments permit, however neither provides us any explanation why to care approximately them as people or as a pair.


A enchanting story-teller: The Rat Spouse (Wilma Bonet) engrosses Erik (Wittmayer) and Freddie (Estlack).

What touch they have got after the twist of fate is brought about by way of the urgings of Freddie’s part-sister, Andi (Mariah Fort), and her perhaps-boyfriend, Bernie (Greg Ayers), the younger architect who designed the retreat. Andi is by way of a long way the play’s so much likable and reputedly smartly-adjusted grownup; Bernie is a foolish twerp.

Allow me digress a second. The ones masculine-sounding, rhyming names: Joie, Freddie, Andi, Bernie. What is going on right here? They have been consciously selected through a cultured dramatist. Is he subverting the seriousness of his play? Beats me.

The exceptions to that naming trend are Erik, performed with glorious appeal and unbelievably outsized crutches through Jack Wittmayer, and a abnormal customer referred to as the Rat Spouse, successfully portrayed through Wilma Bonet, with robust make stronger from spooky unique results at each and every look.

A version at the Pied Piper of Hamelin and identical legends, the Rat Spouse knocks on doorways of filthy rich people and gives to rid their houses of rodents through luring them to dying in local waters. Given her profession, she’s clearly bad, injecting a observe of sophistication variety; she’s additionally an immigrant with a Latino accessory, including an ethnic twist. Jackson it sounds as if used to be made up our minds to hide many bases with only a few phrases.

In spite of the issues, robust performances and positive staging held my hobby and make me wish Little Erik is a piece in growth. With extra flesh on its Ibsenesque skeleton, plus a reputable end, it would upload to Jackson’s already esteemed popularity. Because it stands, it charges top best as a supply of after-theater dialog.

Little Erik runs thru Feb. 28 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $32-$50, from 510-843-4822 or auroratheatre.org

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