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Review October 13th, 2004
We set off from San Francisco under the setting of a blood red sun on our way to La Val's Subterranean in Berkeley to see the Un-Scripted Theater Company's preview performance of Fear. Some would say the unusual sunset was a result of all the recent fires but we like to think it was a portent of the tale of terror we were about to witness.
Upon arriving at La Val's, located on Euclid Avenue, a block north of the UC campus' North Gate, we grabbed some Sierra's at the counter and made our way down the narrow stairs to the subterranean portion of the establishment. La Val's is better known to people of my generation as a venue for punk rock bands but as we found out, performs well as an intimate theater space.
As the stage lights came on we were greeted by Director Alan Goy, who introduced us to the concept of improvisational theater. He then took audience suggestions for the setting, location, and time of year that the actors would use to spin their tale of terror. For this performance, the audience suggested that the story take place in the Fall, on a remote Midwestern farm, with a ramshackle Queen Anne style farmhouse, and a large corn field.
After a somewhat shaky start, six actors from the troupe, playing multiple roles, fell into their invented characters and created an intriguing two hour thriller complete with intermingled story lines, misdirected suspicions, and several plot twists.
This performance revolved around the tragic history of the farmhouse and a pair of murderous brothers, played perfectly by Christian Utzman and Brian McBride, who act as both real estate agents and supernatural caretakers of the farm. Together they lure couples away from the big city who hope to fulfill their dreams of leaving the rat race and settling down in the country to enjoy the simple life. The simple life is not all that it is cracked up to be as the two homeowner couples, played by Jennifer Kah and Cort Worthington and Alyssa Harvey and Ken Robertson, soon learn.
In the first act we saw the characters and story being developed, building suspense as the audience tried to figure out who the antagonist(s) would be. Was it the slightly creepy and Opie-esque little Billie, a role also played convincingly by Worthington? Could it be Billie's unsettling mother, played passionately by Kah in another one of her roles? Were the homeowners somehow involved? Suspicions were passed from character to character until nobody could be trusted.
The second act saw the story and action pick up pace as the story slid deeper into the dark history of the farmhouse. One by one characters were picked off. Drowned, stabbed, and beaten they dropped, culminating in a ritualistic disemboweling. While this sounds like a very gory play, the actors took great strides to keep it balanced and in the end created a shocking yet intriguing story.
All of the actors were wonderful and gave memorable and believable performances. The original music by Dave Dyson perfectly accompanied the unfolding story. Together they created a very entertaining night of theater.
As the name of the company implies, this is completely un-scripted improvisational theater. While we have relayed the story of the preview we attended, no two shows will be the same. Given the quality of performance at this preview show, we have no hesitation in recommending you visit a performance of Fear by the Un-Scripted Theater Company. At $12 ($7 for students and seniors) it is a very good bargain for your money. You won't be disappointed.
For Fear show times and a map to La Val's please see our calendar listing and to read more about Fear, the Un-Scripted Theater Company, and the actors who make up the company, please visit the Un-Scripted Theater Company website.
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