Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Impact Theatre of Berkeley is proof that given determination, sufficient talent and resourcefulness, more can be done with a whole lot less.

Their current minimalist production of THE CHALK BOY faithfully depicts the painfully vicious nature of the social hierarchy in a high school setting.

Adolescents who have absorbed the basics of sparring and jousting within a social context from their parents often fail to gage just how much cattiness is sufficient to wound but not cause paralysis.

While it is one thing to throw a body check to thwart a competitor’s ascent up the social food chain, the check should not cause him or her to walk off the playing field, drop out of school or deny the victor a chance to witness the withdrawal, moping and depression of the vanquished.

The ground rules call for bruising; not breaking the competition.

Four high school girls—Penny Lauder, Lauren Radley, Trisha Sorensen and Breanna Stark—seem to be locked in every conceivable form competition with each other excepting the obvious: the highest GPA.

With tenuous forays into lesbian and heterosexual sex, the occult and even academics, the four girls seem to explore the boundaries and mores of their seemingly safe community.

It is safe until the title character, Chalk Boy, turns up missing.

As Alfred Hitchcock advised, "New put a creek in a murder mystery unless you plan to use it."

Mysteriously, one of Chalk Boy's fingers—one might ask if it was the violating finger—gets mailed home.

Thanks to fast routing by the U.S. Postal service, the DNA was still legible upon receipt—it was obviously not shipped during the holiday season.

Chris Quintos as Trisha makes some remarkable and credible transitions assuming different characters and personas while surfing on an unstable emotional roller coaster ride.

Excellent directing by Ben Randle keeps the various threads of the storyline from tangling in the mind of the audience.

Given the extremely low ceilings—think coal mine—lighting designer Jax Steager miraculously bends Newton’s Law of Optics and ignores the tenets of Ohm’s Law just getting light the subterranean stage.

Both the production standards and the dauntless spirit of Impact Theatre make for excellent theater, a wonderfully rustic place to eat pizza, drink beer and a reassuring glimpse of the next generation of promising thespians strutting and fretting their nascent hours upon the stage.