Theater is an ephemeral art form. Unlike a book or a movie or a pop song that you can return to again and again, a play usually runs its course for a few weeks, and you either see it or don't. Sure, there are some shows that run for years or decades, like big Broadway hits or Beach Blanket Babylon, but even those are subtly different night after night. For most shows at most small and midsize theaters, and even at big ones, it's relatively rare for a show to come back for a revival run, and rarer still to do so with the same cast.
Jukebox Stories at Impact Theatre is a special case. It's a completely different show every time it comes back to the company's black-box space in a North Berkeley pizza parlor basement, in part because it's a different show every single night. It's a collaboration between playwright Prince Gomolvilas, a former San Franciscan now living in Los Angeles, and Brandon Patton, a singer-songwriter now based in New Haven. Gomolvilas tells a story, then Patton sings a song, and the playlist for the evening is randomly selected by the audience. This is the third time Jukebox Stories has come to Impact. After premiering with the company in 2006, it returned in 2008 with a second edition, subtitled The Case of the Creamy Foam, and five years later it's finally back again with a whole new batch of tales and ditties mixed in with some old favorites.
Round three has the subtitle The Secrets of Forking and is loosely themed around fortune telling. Alexandra Friedman's surprisingly elaborate set is full of mystical and Oriental kitsch: red-clothed tables, candles, kitty statues, a palmistry poster, and origami birds all over the floor. Audience members are given tarot cards as they enter, each one corresponding to a song or story, and cards from a parallel deck are drawn at random in a "pick a card, any card" manner throughout the show to determine the next piece to be formed. There's also a lottery for special prizes tied in with this whole process. The performers have the option of skipping the random selection from time to time if there's something they particularly want to perform at the moment because it ties in with the last piece that the other one read or sang, and the first and last parts are pre-chosen to give some semblance of control over the overall shape of the evening.
Both Gomolvilas and Patton are assured, charismatic, and hilarious performers. Patton kicks things off with an amusing song about how a sexy fortune teller in a James Bond flick led to him dabbling in prognostication himself: "I bought my own deck of tarot cards and gave up on free will." Gomolvilas reads a post from his blog, Bamboo Nation, about how an earlier blog entry, "Romanian Cinema is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to the Romanian Tourist Industry," inadvertently caused him to be sought after as some kind of authority on Southeast European cinema, something he'd be the first to say he knows nothing about.