When Tim Barsky first staged The Bright River: A Mass Transit Tour of the Afterlife in 2004, it was like the act of a drowning man reaching for a sliver of hope. To Barsky, the world had become a negative inversion viewed through the looking glass of the Bush administration: Light appeared dark, greed became generosity, violence became kindness. Barsky saw his first drive-by shooting, got arrested for filming an act of police brutality, and watched a friend succumb to amphetamine psychosis. Out of this morass sprang Bright River, an urban tale of a young man from South Berkeley who loses his life in Iraq and a woman who follows him to the underworld. Using Yiddish storytelling techniques and human beatbox to conjure the texture and travails of an otherworldly transit system, Barsky led audiences through a hardboiled hell where the dead still struggle to pay rent and lost souls are hounded by a shadow of a man named Quick. The play emotionally galvanized audiences and won awards. But, after five years, with a new president and many other shows under his belt, Barsky acknowledges that little has changed. Were still at war and hes still haunted by the dead, so hes plunged back in, this time with Kevin Carnes on percussion, Alex Kelly on cello, and Carlos Aguirre doing beatbox.
Jan. 8-Feb. 20, 8 p.m., 2010