A comic book has supernatural powers in "Origin Story." A freeway warps through time in "Sixty Miles to Silver Lake." A family dinner stretches across generations in "The Big Meal."
The boundaries of time and space are mere playthings in the genre-bending work of Dan LeFranc. The up-and-coming 31-year-old playwright is breaking all the rules with "Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright."
Welcome to a light-speed farce about a 12-year-old wannabe super hero whose outrageous universe zips from zombies to Nazis. A zany three-act adventure set in a mashup of the '80s and '90s known as "nineteen mighty four," this tween epic is so bold that it almost included a boat chase. The audacious
Q How is the play coming together?
A It's a beast, man. I've never written anything like this. Most of my other pieces are one-acts. This is a three-act, action-packed adventure fantasy. It started out as a grand epic, a spin on the "Odyssey"and "Argonautika," but it's also influenced by Shakespeare and Moliere, and it really moves like a video game.
Q Do you think audiences crave
A I know for me, I either want it to be 70 minutes that flies by and then we can go to the bar, or else I want it be six or eight hours long, and you pack a sandwich. It's almost like a TV show where you watch a whole season of "Breaking Bad" in one sitting.
Q I hear that. But how do you capture that pulse-pounding, action-adventure vibe onstage without the bells and whistles of film?
A Movies are all about rapid-fire imagery, the stimulation of the eye. There's no way to do that on stage in the same way, but you can throw all of that rapid-fire imagery straight into the mind's eye. It's in the language, that's what the theater can do. And with adolescents, it's almost like they speak in some kind of secret code, their vernacular is so specific. It's like everything they do and say is in hyper-drive.
Q Why do you love comic books?
A I'm a dude. I originally got into comic books and video games as an escape. My parents are great, but my adolescence was not so cheery. I ran away a couple of times. I was the kid who wasn't allowed in other kids' houses because of the language I used. I had a potty mouth. I had my fair share of mayhem. I was a troublemaker. Living in the imagination was an important escape for me.
Q So you relate to your hero Bradley a lot?
A Yeah, I totally relate to him. He's very much me and also my little brother and all the guys I knew growing up.
Q What interests you about adolescence?
A That time in life is so clear to me. It's such an intense time, where everything matters so much, and it feels like the foundations are being laid for the rest of your life.
Q Which comes first for you, the form of the play or the heart of the story?
A It can't be form for form's sake. For me, it's content first. The core of anything you write is the icky stuff about your life and who you are. You're trying to expose something about yourself, but also about everyone else and what it is to be human.
Q Do you ever feel vulnerable about putting such sensitive stuff out there?
A All the time. You're exposed. Your blood is in that thing, and you can't hide. Sometimes you wonder why you do that to yourself. You wonder, "What compels me to do this?" But in the end, I do it because I love it. I do it because I have to.
Q Why was Berkeley Rep the perfect place to give birth to this play?
A The thing I admire so much about the Rep is the history of doing adventurous new work. They don't care if it sounds impossible. At one point, we had a boat chase in the show, and they were down with it. It was insane, and in the end, we cut it because it didn't serve the story, but they were up for it. They like the crazy.
"Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright"
by Dan LeFranc
Through: Feb. 3
Where: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St.
Tickets: $29-$77, 510-647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org.