Yes, Barnyard Theatre produces plays in a real working barn, built in the 1890s. You’ll pass penned-up goats as you enter, and it smells like a barn, too: dust, hay, manure. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. because old barns get hot beneath the summer sun. The late “curtain” takes advantage of the evening air and emerging stars.
Barnyard Theatre’s performers and crew are mostly well-educated 20-somethings who grew up in Davis. They favor challenging newer scripts, like Sarah Saltwick’s She Creatures, a mythological menagerie including a mermaid (who swaps fins for legs and clumsily walks on land), two unicorns (a worried mother advising an impetuous adolescent daughter), a fiery dragon (inclined toward matrimony) and snake-haired Medusa (trying hard not to look at a beloved acquaintance who unexpectedly turns up). My favorite was actress Maddy Ryen as a selkie (a seal who becomes a woman and must marry the man who acquires her sealskin). Ryen delivers an absorbing kitchen monologue while preparing a mouth-watering batch of guacamole, with her “sealskin” (Betsy Raymond, covered head to toe in a stretchy black sack) wriggling on ground like a 6-foot slug—an unearthly contrast. Wide-eyed Pandora (fetching Alicia Hunt) witnesses and comments throughout the play.
Each creature gets her own scene; the independent panels share common themes. While not a strictly linear sequence, it’s a striking and very theatrical grouping of monologues and dialogues—tasty brain candy for those seeking unusual fare in an uncommon venue on a summer’s eve.