Theater & Performing Arts

Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men

When: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 24 2012

The word most often used to describe playwright and performer Dael Orlandersmith is "unsparing" -- a favorite theater-critic cliché that in her case is entirely appropriate. Her newest production, now enjoying its world premiere in Berkeley, is an episodic solo performance about male-on-male abuse, which is probably one of the diciest subjects a woman could select as a muse. Orlandersmith tackles it with alacrity, transforming her large and powerful body into a tween prostitute, an Irish playboy, an old park janitor with a limp, a spurned child molester, and an alcoholic father, sometimes indicating a shift in character with minute gestures. She manages to humanize each of them and braid multiple narrative threads together, using a low-tech setup that includes only a chair and a gorgeously spare lighting scheme. Directed by Chay Yew, Black n Blue Boys is saturated in pathos -- one need only read the title to see that -- but it provides keen observations about social class and the cycle of violence. Orlandersmith gives credence to the idea that rich folks can pay to hide their scars, but the marks on poor people are indelible. Through June 24 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Thrust Stage (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $14.50-$73. 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org

Rachel Swan

Price: $14.50-$73

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