Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Village Bike
Shotgun Players
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Maggie's Riff, Chester Bailey, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday and Present Laughter and Eddie's review of Lightning in the Brain

Elissa Stebbins and Nick Medina
Photo by Pak Han
Shotgun Players are presenting an erotic British drama, Penelope Skinner's new play The Village Bike. I was told by the actor Burton Thomas that a woman who "lays around with every man in an English village" is called a Village Bicycle, or Village Bike. Well, Becky (Elissa Stebbins) seems to having a great old time. Let me elaborate.

Becky is a pregnant, married schoolteacher who buys a secondhand bike from a randy actor to explore the countryside around the family cottage. She really is enthusiastic for sex, but her husband John (Nick Medina), who is monastically obsessed with baby manuals and ethical shopping at Tesco, refuses to have sex with her as he thinks it might hurt the baby. He spends his time poring over baby books and perfecting new recipes. So what's Becky to do besides masturbating to porn on her laptop?

She starts to imitate her fantasies with widowed plumber Mike (David Sinaiko), followed up by Oliver (Kevin Clark), the heartless village lothario who is an actor dressed up as a highwayman taking a break from a local drama rehearsal. Of course, things sexual happen with these two men without the knowledge of John. Becky's best friend, lonely virtual widow Jenny (El Beh), comes to visit her sometimes. She has two young kids and needs some respite from the brats, as she calls them.

The Village Bike is full of double entendres and this is one terrifically saucy and satirical two and half hour comedy drama. The playwright explores such complex matters as matrimonial dysfunction, unfaithfulness, and sex addiction. Also, the two story cottage has plumbing problems and you occasionally hear loud rumbling noises from the pipes. You might call it "Cat Under a Leaky Roof."

Elissa Stebbins is terrific, with a spot-on British midland accent as the sex-crazy Becky. There is an air of unabridged naturalness about her acting that is wonderful. Nick Medina, who sports a somewhat Austin Powers accent combined with a midland style, is excellent as the bookish husband John. One great scene happens in the second act, where he explodes after finding plastic bags from Tesco—evidence that Becky has been buying food "not suitable for the pregnant wife."

Kevin Clark is outstanding as the actor Oliver. He skillfully portrays the character as cold-hearted with an arrogant swagger, and the lover who fills the gap in Becky's life. David Sinaiko gives a splendid performance as the widow plumber Mike. He plays the role as a lustful fellow. El Beh deftly plays neighbor Jenny as a woman on the verge of nervous breakdown. Megan Trout beautifully rounds out the cast as the unruffled Alice late in the second act.

Splendidly staged and directed by Patrick Dooley, the piece offers a bitingly comic take on sexual double standards. Nina Ball provides a detailed set of a British cottage in the midland of England. Costumes by Valera Cable are chic outfits one would find in England.

The Village Bike is a raw, rarely exposed exploration of our intimate needs and frustrations.

The Village Bike runs through July 3, 2016, at the The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-841-6500 or visit Coming up next is Heidi Schreck Grand Concourse opening on July 13th.

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