TDPS presents '70 Scenes of Halloween,' a sly, surreal comedy by Jeffrey M Jones

September 4, 2018

UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) opens its 2018-19 season with 70 Scenes of Halloween, a spooky, scrambled, and sly comedy that transforms the unraveling of a marriage into a frighteningly funny and fantastical romp. Written by experimental playwright Jeffrey M Jones, this fast-moving scuffle will be presented in an intimate configuration on the Zellerbach Playhouse stage on the UC Berkeley campus. Directed by Christopher Herold, 70 Scenes of Halloween runs October 11–14. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office or at the door.

The play reveals a young married couple, Jeff and Joan, who seem set to spend Halloween on their couch in a state of mild antagonism and mutual boredom. But as time fragments and reassembles, dark forces emerge and they must contend with ghosts, beasts, and witches banging on windows, wafting through rooms, and wielding butcher knives.

The turbulent tale abandons linear narrative in favor of 70 brief scenes played out of order, resulting in a wild, dreamlike ride that blends realism with psychological surprise and humor. One minute, the couple is greeting trick-or-treaters, and the next, they are succumbing to inner demons, chasing each other through the living room brandishing a butchered chicken. Husbands becomes wolves and wives become phantoms in this domestic drama about a marriage dying of familiarity. Their haunted home offers a weirdly comical and thought-provoking glimpse into the nature of relationships.

Jeffrey M Jones uses the traditional institution of Halloween to deliver a message of estrangement, and to assert the frequent inadequacy of language. The play is an autobiographical work written in 1980, during the collapse of Jones’ own marriage.  Adding to the absurdity, he dedicated the play to his wife, whose name was Joan.

“While 70 Scenes of Halloween can be described as a domestic tale about a disintegrating marriage, it also reveals more profound truths,” says director Christopher Herold, “—our inner demons, fears, hopes, and the power of forces over which we seem to have no control.”  Herold has been intrigued by this play for many years, in part because of the ability to arrange the scenes in any order—creating a different story, message, and journey with each composition. He is inspired by the play’s insightful revelation of the human condition, and its imaginative theatricality, explaining, “The play is a wonderful concoction of differing tones and genres, moving rapidly and slyly from wild humor to bleak despair, from living-room domesticity to time-warped, altered reality.  Additionally, it’s a work that the audience probably hasn’t seen before, providing a rare opportunity to engage something fresh and unknown.”

Production Details

70 Scenes of Halloween opens Thursday, October 11 and continues through Sunday, October 14, 2018 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, and UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office or at the door.

70 Scenes of Halloween features scenic design by Alexandra Grabow, costume design by Miyuki Bierlein, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, and sound design by Ian D. Thomas. The cast includes Komi Gbeblewou, Edward Im, Devin Lizardi, Jade Moujaes, Verity Pinter, Lauren Richardson, Theo Rosenfeld, and Madeline Yagle.

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Christopher Herold

Mr. Herold teaches acting and directing for TDPS.  His directing credits at Berkeley include productions of  MetamorphosesSummertimeThe Ruling ClassOur TownSauce For the Goose, Suburban Motel, Three Sisters, Escape From Happiness, Orestes, Pterodactyls, Good, Noises Off, The Crucible, Funeral Games, Infancy, and How I Got That StoryHe is also a member of the faculty at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where he serves as the Director of the Summer Training Congress.  At A.C.T., he has directed studio productions of Fuddy Meers, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, The Kentucky Cycle Part II, Galileo, and Escape From Happiness.  Mr. Herold has also taught at Stanford and The Berkeley Repertory School of Theatre.  The former Artistic Director and a founding member of Jawbone Theater Ensemble, his work with that company includes direction of the San Francisco premier of Manfred Karge’s Conquest of the South Pole and Samuel Beckett’s Play for the Bay Area Intimate Theater Festival.  Other directing credits include the San Francisco premier of Tick, Tick . . . Boom for Theatre Rhinoceros and the critically acclaimed Achilles and Patroclus for Central Works.  Locally, he has appeared in roles at Aurora Theatre, The Magic, Central Works, Theatre Rhinoceros, Shotgun Players, the Victoria Theater, and Yerba Buena Gardens.