THREE BAY AREA WOMEN HELLA LOVE OAKLAND
Hella Love Oakland is the latest full-fledged production to come out of the Playground Festival of New Works, a Bay Area institution and treasure that provides opportunities and support for emerging playwrights and new works. Hella Love Oakland began as a ten-minute play at one of Playground’s monthly Monday Night PlayGround events at Berkeley Rep. From there it was developed step by step until it became the fully realized production it is today.
The work that Playground does in the Bay Area is invaluable, and it is exciting to see shows like Hella Love Oakland that represent the forefront of new works today. With a small cast, a strong focus on dialogue, and a critical engagement with issues of race, class, and gender, this show is about as modern as they come, but without irony and with a strong sense of conviction and truth.
The three actors embody their characters to an extraordinary degree, and are so easy and interesting to watch. Their interactions are taught with subtext and the underlying tension of the situations that they find themselves in. The title is misleading, because while Oakland provides a perfect setting for the play, the real narrative action and conflict centers on the struggles of Lisa, played by Lisa Morse, raising her biracial son and trying to make the right school choices for him. Safiya Fredericks plays her sister-in-law, a Stanford Urban Studies major who works with underserved youth in some sort of life skills/beat poetry group. Lizzie Calogero rounds out the cast as Megan, an extremely intentional parent and head of the PTA who becomes a close friend of Lisa. All of these women make the difficult issues and complicated discussions of the piece pleasurable to watch with their skill and commitment.
Robin Lynn Rodriguez is definitely a playwright to watch. She has created three complex characters that each have different backgrounds and opinions on the most pressing issues surrounding race, education, and parenting. The play does not come across as preachy at all, it’s an exploration of real people and how they live with the hard choices they have to make. She uses powerful beat poetry to contrast and compliment realistic conversations between the actors and addresses to the audience. Hopefully the bay area will see much more of her work performed, and Playground is to be commended for everything they have done to bring her work to audiences here. Hella LOVE OAKLAND closes June 13, but The PlayGround continues.
HELLA LOVE PRODUCTIONS IN ASSOCIATION WITH PLAYGROUND PREMIERE ROBIN LYNN RODRIGUEZ’S
HELLA LOVE OAKLAND
19TH PLAYGROUND FESTIVAL OF NEW WORKS
MAY 11-JUNE 13, 2015
AT THICK HOUSE, SAN FRANCISCO
TICKETS AT http://PlayGround-sf.org.