Steve Budd performs his solo show What They Said About Love at The Marsh Berkeley. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs

With humor, whimsy and poignancy, Steve Budd performs his 65-minute solo show, What They Said About Love at Berkeley’s The Marsh just in time for Valentine’s day… or not.

It’s a sweet and bittersweet exploration that centers on the perennial question of how best to meet and keep a mate. Steve Budd plays a cast of characters in this docudrama, all based on actual Bay Area people he interviewed about the fine points of loving relationships. These are interspersed with the tale of his own search for love.

Budd is a skilled actor who controls the stage with grace. He smoothly and effortlessly acts all the roles without props or costume swaps. Budd distinguishes among the various characters using only variations to his voice and alterations to his physicality. And with only a few minor exceptions, it is easy to follow the sequences of the different personalities he performs, as he quickly rotates to the next role. The fact that Budd uses the interviewed couples’ own words lends additional credibility to his performance, although some of the sequences are more memorable than others.

We see the pairs discuss how they met and their ideas about what keeps them together. Among the couples are the New Agers with many cats whose initial meeting had to be postponed when they each had prior commitments at silent retreats, the motorcycle riders who bonded over spark plugs, and the couple who only married because they thought it would be a kick to wed on June 6, 2006 (6/6/6). My favorite duo was the woman who always wanted to marry a man who read The New Yorker, but her actual partner turned out to be very far afield from her preconceived perfect mate.

Directed by Mark Kenward, and developed with David Ford, What They Said About Love’s deepest and most personal story is Budd’s self-described love affair with a woman from Kenya, in which the two struggle with closeness and commitment. It is the longest and the most satisfying piece, and we get to know and understand their relationship intimately, as Budd effectively reveals to the audience his own foibles and quandaries about relationships.

The Marsh, with a branch in San Francisco as well as in Berkeley, refers to itself as “a breeding ground for new performance.” It specializes in presenting solo shows and in helping writers, comedians and actors develop their material. The Marsh has several classes where students can write and hone their craft. It’s a great venue for novice and experienced entertainers to work.

For a light, short entertainment, with touches of piquancy and poignancy, see Steve Budd’s What They Said About Love.

What They Said About Love is playing Friday and Saturday nights at The Marsh, 2120 Alston Way, through March 3. For tickets ($20-$35 sliding scale, $55-$100 reserved), information, and extended dates, visit The Marsh online.

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Emily S. Mendel

Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although an East Bay resident for most of her life), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...