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Curtain Calls: ‘Constitution’ intense, if a bit unfocused

Pulsating with a raw power and intensity, Heidi Schreck’s “What the Constitution Means to Me” opened recently at Berkeley Rep. Continuing through June 17, the show receives its inspiration from scholarship-winning speeches that Schreck gave as a high school student at a variety of American Legion halls.
While Schreck, who stars in the piece, brings an unbridled enthusiasm to the U.S. Constitution and it’s many amendments, it also tends to wander as the actress goes back and forth from high school contestant to playwright commenting on politics today. Her energy is contagious and her relationship with the Constitution personal as she relates it to her own life, weaving in feminism and oppression of minorities, but it’s as if the very likable actress/playwright has too much to include, resulting in a slightly unfocused narrative.
Playwright and performer Heidi Schreck wrote and stars in “What the Constitution Means to Me,” making its West Coast premiere at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. (Alessandra Mello/Berkeley Repertory Theatre) 
Schreck is joined on stage by Danny Wolohan, who plays an officious moderator at one of the American Legion halls, and St. Mary’s High School student Anaya Matthews, who alternates in the role with fellow high schooler Wisdom Kunitz. Equally intense, Matthews debates Schreck’s younger self in an extemporaneous parliamentary debate that ends the show in a deflatingly simple game between the two actresses. For tickets to this unique offering, call 510-647-2949 or go to  www.berkeleyrep.org .
Walnut Creek: It’s “Freaky Friday” at Center Rep with the opening of this Disney-inspired musical with a book by Bridget Carpenter and an original pop/rock score by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.
Directed by Jeff Collister, “Freaky Friday” tells of an overworked mother (Lynda DiVito) who magically changes places with her teenage daughter (Olivia Jane Mell). They have just one day to put things right again before Mom’s big wedding.
But before that happens, the two have a unique opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes for 24 hours. Daniel Feyer is the music director with Jennifer Perry the choreographer and the incredible Kelly Tighe designing the set. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW or go to  www.lesherartscenter.org .
Concord: B8 Theatre opens its next show on a serious note as the innovative company presents Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” Adapted for the company by Annie Potter, the play is set in today’s world with a woman of color in a biracial marriage who finds her own voice and how to make it heard.
Director JanLee Marshall says the production looks at feminism, race and “what it takes to be true to one’s self in today’s world.” “A Doll’s House” runs June 7-23 at the company’s theater, 2292 Concord Blvd. in Concord. Call 925-890-8877 or go to  www.b8theatre.org .
El Cerrito: Meanwhile, it’s the dawn of a new century at El Cerrito’s Contra Costa Civic Theatre as they present a fascinating portrait of America with “Ragtime.” Set in the melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, three distinctly American tales are woven together: a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician.
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Each is united by their courage, compassion and belief in the promise of a new and better future. The show runs June 15 through July 22 at CCCT, 951 Pomona Ave. in El Cerrito. Call 510-524-9012 or go to  www.ccct.org .
Festivals online: Congratulations to Bill Chessman, whose recent recordings of Four-Eyed Jacks radio plays will be featured in upcoming festivals. “Tex X and the Cactus Grifters” (recorded at Vallejo’s Bay Area Stage last November) is part of the Podcast Palooza at the National Audio Theater Festivals (NATF) HEAR Now Festival. The physical festival takes place June 7-10 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Podcast Palooza is the online component of the festival, and all featured selections of the festival are available for on-demand listening between June 7 and Aug. 1.
“Zombie: A Modern Tragedy” (recorded at the Martinez Campbell Theater in April) is part of the Fringe Audio presentation of the Atlanta Fringe Festival. The Fringe Audio program is the online component of the festival, and all featured selections are available for on-demand listening between Memorial Day (May 28) and June 17.
Sally Hogarty can be reached at sallyhogarty@gmail.com. Search for “Curtain Calls” by Sally Hogarty at eastbaytimes.com to read more of her reviews online.

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