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Jacob Coakley Special to the Daily Planet
Thursday June 06, 2002

The playfulness of the venue, the beat from a live DJ and the exuberance of the cast make Impact Theater’s "Love is the Law" light up into a true party. And playwright Zay Amsbury is smart enough to know that no party is complete without a little drama. Raver-boy Kenzie, deadened to the rave “love drug” ecstasy because of overuse, is ready to leave the party - until he meets Sarah, and they hit it off. That night Sarah drops a bomb: she’s with the Drug Enforcement Agency. She’s not there to shut the drug-laden rave down – or is she? It all depends on Kenzie. 

David Ballog is perfectly cast as Kenzie. Ballog has appeared in several of Impact’s productions and keeps getting better with each show. He brings the right amount of fluid angst and earnestness to Kenzie. And Bernadette Quattrone brings a touching haplessness to her rookie DEA role, but also imbues the agent with a real strength. They’re the core of this play and they do a great job.  

Kevin O’Malley plays Sarah’s DEA partner King, and nearly steals the show with his Texas drawl and lackadaisical manner. His teasing nature makes sure nothing comes across too seriously except when he wants it to. Lisa Hori-Garcia is as sexy and dangerous as a concealed handgun, playing Kenzie’s best friend Victoria Storm. Perry Smith commands the stage as Ann. 

Director Christopher Morrison makes the play pop. He’s taken a potentially talky piece and staged it with incredible energy and movement. He works against some of the more self-righteous elements in the script (ecstasy’s use as a "sacrament") and keeps things fun.  

The set and space are the first stage elements to hit the audience, and the two elements are truly remarkable. In the basement of LaVal’s Pizzeria, Chris Hammer has made what is perhaps the most difficult space in Berkeley in which to work and made it intimate, funky and hip. He’s wrapped the space in varying materials and textures so that onlookers forget where they are. With a deft, mini-disco ball touch he creates separate spaces in the small theatre. Blake Manship’s moody lighting aids in the transformation. Music permeates to great effect.  

Anne Marie Wilson’s costumes make the cast look exquisitely hip – except for those who are not supposed to look hip. Wilson’s costume for a girl called "rave utility belt" drew one of the first big laughs of the evening.  

One of the play’s overriding themes – drug use as a viable religious experience – seemed forced and patently false. This is ground that has been well-traveled by and is familiar to many living in the Bay Area. Kenzie’s dilemma with his drug use putting him and his friends in danger is dramatic on its own, without overtones of Jesus in the Garden of Eden preparing to sacrifice himself. When playwright Amsbury comes back from that conceit to focus mainly on the interplay between the characters, his sharpness as an author comes out and the play finds its footing again.  

Impact’s program refers to the show as a "rave romantic comedy." They’ve made it that and a great party with cool music, lots of laughs and even a random hook up or two.