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Walking the Dead 

Though it grapples with important themes, certain parts feel contrived

Wednesday, Jan 11 2006
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A striking woman dressed in black greets arriving guests with formality. Her cordial reception is the first clue that we've bought tickets to a memorial service. The intimate room at the Berkeley City Club is infused with the awkward shuffling and whispering of a sparsely attended funeral. A small cast takes the stage, where Maya, stoic lover of the deceased and hostess of the event, begins reminiscing about Veronica. Suddenly, the cast erupts into simultaneous ranting at full volume, and it's clear this is going to be messier than a traditional tribute. Veronica and Maya relive their pivotal scenes of turbulent self-discovery alongside Chess, a sheepishly endearing friend of the lesbian couple, and Dottie, Veronica's disparaging mother. Tangential tales introduce us to others: Bobby, an insightful, sardonic source of comic relief; Dr. Drum, the therapist who challenges Veronica's desire to become physiologically male; and Stan, a filmmaker who exploits her story. Since honoring Veronica's life is a different process for each character, tension permeates the service. While our proximity to the action enables some emotional connections that appear truthfully passionate and human, more often such instances feel staged and contrived, perhaps intentionally. Geared toward mature audiences, this lengthy, well-cast play grapples with controversial themes from gay stereotyping to trans surgery. An important piece, though far from uplifting.

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Emily Forbes

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