‘Book of Days’ isn’t for the casual theatergoer

Courtesy Miguel A. Gastelum

University Theatre’s “Book of Days” opened March 22 with a packed house in the Dennis & Cheryl Woods Theatre.

This Fresno State premiere focuses on the interconnected lives of 12 men and women from a small town in Missouri. When a man is found dead after a hunting trip, lies unravel as the characters weave the twisted tale in an effort to find the truth.

The play features many University Theatre familiar faces such as Evangelia Pappas and Jimmy Haynie, who appeared in last semester’s “Miss Bennet,” and Alyssa Benitez, who although graduated, continues to appear in Fresno State productions.

The tone of the production takes some getting used to. Each actor plays both a character and a narrator of sorts, setting up each new scene with popcorn-style dialogue where one person says a short phrase and the next character picks up where the prior left off.

Some characters stay on stage and observe the others, even when they are not involved in the current scene.

The stage has no set other than four small, wooden benches that the actors move around. All of the environment comes from the characters themselves and the lighting cues.

The lighting design by Thomas Barile was phenomenal. The characters jump in and out of scenes and monologue to the audience as a mode for additional exposition. Every subtle light shift helps the audience follow what’s happening.

Although the narrative style is different than most traditional plays, the characters are compelling. The story keeps the audience hooked until the big reveal.

“Book of Days” is a show more for the serious theatre patron. It takes work to keep up with the complicated plot and who belongs with whom. With mild language and complex thematic elements, it’s not the kind of play you go to with your mother.

The approximate running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes. The show continues through March 30. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

For ticketing information, contact the box office at (559) 278-2216 or email universitytheatre@csufresno.edu.

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