Saturday, April 21, 2018

Satire, seriousness mix in 'Eureka Day' at Aurora

Suzanne (Lisa Anne Porter, left), Carina (Elizabeth Carter), Don (Rolf Saxon), Eli (Teddy Spencer) and Meiko (Charisse Loriaux) follow online comments about vaccination. (Photo by David Allen)

Political correctness is carried to extremes in Jonathan Spector’s “Eureka Day,” receiving its world premiere at Aurora Theatre Company.

At the private Eureka Day School in the Berkeley hills, its five-member executive committee tries to reach consensus on various issues.

The first, for example, is racial designation. The list of possibilities read by Don (Rolf Saxon), the chairman, seems endless.

Moreover, the school’s production of “Peter Pan” last year caused so many problems because of its depiction of Indians that it was set in outer space.

On a more serious note, Don reads a letter from the Alameda County health director that an outbreak of mumps at the school means that children who have been vaccinated or who have had mumps may continue to attend. All others will be quarantined until the outbreak abates.

This letter causes great consternation among the committee, which includes Meiko (Charisse Loriaux), Suzanne (Lisa Anne Porter), Eli (Teddy Spencer) and newcomer Carina (Elizabeth Carter).

Because they can’t agree on a letter to accompany the health director’s, they have an online, live forum. As Don moderates, parents chime in.

Many of the comments, projected for the audience to see, are so far afield or so ridiculous that the audience is soon laughing so loud and so hard that the dialogue can’t be heard. That’s not important because it’s secondary to the hilarious satire in this first act.

Act 2 turns far more serious. Eli’s son is in intensive care with mumps, which he probably caught from Meiko’s daughter.

This is followed by a debate about vaccination between Suzanne, who opposes it, and Carina, who favors it. Each has deeply felt reasons for her stance, and there’s no common ground.

As directed by Josh Costello, the actors clearly define each character without resorting to stereotypes.

Richard Olmsted’s school room set features a large window with a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay and its surroundings. It’s complemented by Jeff Rowlings’ lighting, Maggie Whitaker’s costumes and Theodore Hulsker’s sound and video.

This play was the first to come from Aurora’s Originate + Generate Play Development Program. Although it’s set in left-leaning, politically correct Berkeley, it should play well elsewhere because it’s so amusing and so tuned in to the ongoing controversy about children’s vaccinations.

Running just under two hours with one intermission, “Eureka Day” will continue through May 13 at Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley.

For tickets and information, call (510) 843-4822 or visit