Berkeley Rep hits another one out of the freakin park with Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright. Playwright Dan LeFranc brings us this world premiere about 12-year-old Bradley and his bestest friend Mikey as they battle with wealthy kid Jake Miller to help protect Bradley's mom from a date with Jake Miller's dad. Bradley must fight his way through homeless pirate zombies as well as Nazis to stop Jake Miller and his evil dad and save his mom. So get off of the freakin sofa because Troublemaker is an irresistibly good time for everyone and it's only playing now through February 3.
Dan LeFranc has created a show that I'm sure aspiring teen and young adult actors all across the country are going to love to be in. Hurling insults like "knob slobbering A-wipe" and "dong-sucking A-holes" and getting to say things like "bust his boom box" and "freakin," have got to be a comic-con generation actor's dream come true. And, joy of joys, it's equally fun for the audience to watch.
LeFranc, who says he had a potty mouth as a kid, wanted his characters to cuss without being vulgar. The result is a truly original script with a comic-book feel that doesn't lack for true emotion or character growth.
Gabriel King, in his debut role at Berkeley Rep, portrays the kick-A freakin twelve-year-old Bradley Boatright who is struggling with the death of his dad. Though not a 'tween himself, King is completely believable as an adolescent with a voice that he says just kind of came to him. He leads the audience through Bradley's epic three-act journey with delicious comedic timing and a compelling characterization that neatly captures what it's like to live through 'tween hormonal hell -- when absolutely everything is the most important thing and adventures are the norm.
Chad Goodridge plays Mikey Minkle (Bradley Boatright's main sidekick/partner) with an endearing quality that brought the show back down to earth when it started to feel a bit wild. Adding to the fun is the headstrong Loretta Beretta played fantastically by Jeanna Phillips. Phillips' Loretta Beretta is the genius of the trio, acquiring intel that the group can use on their adventures and her "twist" in the show is one to look forward to.
Robbie Tann is positively evil as Bradley's nemesis Jake Miller. His physicality brought interesting levels to his character and he was a joy to watch. In researching his role, Tann said that he looked to comic book super villains like Lex Luther and Magneto. This flushed out a brand new one that is memorable and enigmatic. It worked.
Filling out the cast are Matt Bradley and Ben Mehl as A-Hole's #1 and 2, Jake's middle school goons. Bradley and Mehl have many hilarious moments. Both of them, along with actor Danny Scheie, played multiple parts in the show. Some of the characters are performed so well that you don't even notice that they are the same person!
Jennifer Regan (mom, Patricia Boatright) and Thomas Jay Ryan (Principal Putters) were superb - and they also played other characters. Regan was hilarious as the fat Nazi woman bent on capturing Bradley to take him to "Foggerhead Academy" and Ryan was perfect as Jake Miller's dad who, according to Bradley, wants to "boyfriend girlfriend" Bradley's mom. They both bring a lot to this play and show their acting skills by performing a massively wide range of emotions and characters within minutes of each other.
Scenic design by Kris Stone was absolutely amazing, though when you first walk in you wouldn't guess that. A gray slanting wall covers the breadth of the stage while three lone telephone poles provide a minimalist effect. But the set has as many surprises as the script and I have to say, I thought the overall effect was freakin kick-A! That said, the balcony of the house had you straining your neck if you were sitting in house right, but the impression it gave and the mood it set were well worth it.
Stone also used a very large doughnut shaped moving sidewalk that was used to great effect when the characters traveled long distances. It was also used to transport and move set pieces on and off the stage through two removable doors in the wall. Lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols was subtle, but impressive and gave the show a clever mood and even got its own laughs.