The Classic video game 'Oregon Trail' comes to stage. Play meets videogame.
Impact Theatre housed in La Vals Pizza black box space is the home of some of the best new plays and performances in the Bay Area. This month writer Bekah Brunstetter is workshopping her new play “The Oregon Trail” on the Impact stage. The plays official world premiere is set for Washington, D.C.'s Flying V Theatre in September. Brunstetter is a writer for both TV and theatre, her past projects include MTV’s Underemployed, and her center piece work “Be A Good Little Widow”.
The story opens in 1997, and 13-year-old Jane Goodrich played so well by Maria Giere Marquis, is an expert at The Oregon Trail video game. She has beaten the game over a 100 times. The undisputed master of her characters’ destinies, but hardly in control of her own trail. She can’t just control-alt-delete herself whenever she wants to start over. If only life were as seemingly simple as The Oregon Trail.
Directed by the talented Ariel Craft, she keeps her cast moving as the story jumps back and forth to the Oregon Trail family and back to Jane's room. Marquis is perfect as the teenager awkward, giggly and squirmy, she brings that hyper energy to the first scene. We also meet her crush Billy, played Ben Calabrese who brings a very funny horny teen boy who is very talented at the game.
The Oregon Trail family bounces on and off stage - also with a teenage in hand named “then Jane” played by Ariella Amaris Irula who is excellent and showing more 1848 teen angst than modern Jane could never fathom with the likes of deadly dysentery, tainted drinking water, and losing her mother.
The clever small set by Anne Kendall turns a couch into a covered wagon. Colin Trevors sound designs and music mix is impressive as the horses gear up to take the family west to Oregon. Jax Steager clean lighting design adds the high tech look of the late 90’s and brightness of the trail west. As the story goes between “now Jane” and “then Jane”. Cassies Rosenbrock is cast as both Janes modern-day sister and wagon train version named Mary Anne. Rosenbrock is perfect in the roles and shows some intense frustration with both now and then Janes. The stern father is played by local favorite Jo Nagal and brings reality to the trail. His highlight is Chanterelle Grovers costume design. He is prefect in his overalls. Janes transition to her 20’s is done well and very convincing also highlighted by Grovers costumes.
As the plays jumps 10 years ahead to 2007 we find “now Jane” at her sister's home, looking for work and avoiding a sink full of dirty dishes. Still playing the game she see’s the dark side of the trail and is handed a bout of depression as she deals with both eras. Brunstetter is brilliant as tieing this arch to the challenges of both girls. Older Billy makes a harsh sexual entrance for Jane, but one that kicks her into the reality she has dealt. Its a powerful scene and directed well by Craft.
"Then Jane" is also dealt a harsh hand on the trail. The cast is talented and at times the play is funny as it is dark and a trip through life's journey whether it's tied to a keyboard or trail west. Bekah Brunsletter’s new work is sure to do well as it moves on to its premiere run later this season. It runs 75 min and moves fast, I highly recommend seeing this new play still in workshop form. “The Oregon Trail” and Jane's journey is worth seeing.
'THE OREGON TRAIL'
By Bekah Brunstetter, Directed by Ariel Craft
presented by Impact Theatre Closes June 7 - La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $10-$25; www.impacttheatre.com