THEATER | Barbara Berlovitz’s “Stories as Told in a Bed”: An intimate and sublimely humorous journey

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It is tricky business reviewing a work in progress, putting the writer in a barely tenable position. How can you be fair to the playwright, casting comment on a script that’s still in development? Critique the weaknesses and you’re a villain for kicking the play’s legs out from under it before it’s had a chance to actually stand on them. Praise the strengths and you’re a cheerleader clapping the author on the back before the job’s finished being done.  Added to which, scrutinize this or that aspect in print and, if it’s not there at the next production, readers wonder where your head was at and why they should trust you. There’s a special circle in hell for editors who give such assignments.

Barbra Berlovitz’s Stories as Told in a Bed at Bedlam Theatre handily gets this reviewer off the hook. The few problems I have with the one-act script matter little. Similarly, the strongest highlights are of scant consequence. Regardless of what revision takes place in the growth of Stories as Told in a Bed, the bedrock on which it stands is fundamentally sound.

stories as told in a bed, playing through november 22 at bedlam theatre. for tickets ($12-$15) and information, see bedlamtheatre.org.

Successful plays boil down to one thing: an embattled protagonist about whom the audience cares. Berlovitz’s protagonist inarguably fills that bill as the author takes her character through a challenging journey that concretely arcs, from beginning to middle to end.

Stories as Told in a Bed gives us a sweet-faced woman wistfully narrating the tale of her narrow escape from the merciless persecution that destroyed her family and the trek that follows, an arduous and eventful passage through her native country, as she makes her way to imagined salvation. The longer you’re with her for the journey, the more intimate a tale is told. By the time it’s done, you want her to win.

Stories as Told in a Bed could have been given a conventional treatment and would’ve worked just fine. Berlovitz, though, adventurously couches it in absurdist trappings that are quite effective, providing, in fact, a dash here and there of sublime humor, taking some of the edge off what ultimately is tragic circumstance. Kudos to the very capable cast (Barbara Berlovitz, Sheila Regan, Dario Tangelson, Telsche Thiessen) and director Robert Rosen, who applies a deft hand. Bedlam co-founder John Beuche does the set, a simple, most effective environment that fits the absurdist aesthetic to a tee.

It’ll be fascinating to see what’s on stage once this work in progress is completed.