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‘The Quality of Life’ Opening at Altarena Playhouse

Bay Area playwright Jane Anderson’s play is set in Berkeley after the 1991 fires.

Coming in from a sunny day, Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse lobby is dark and cool. Artistic Director, Katina Psihos Letheule, appears from behind a curtain. After introductions, I comment on the cool air flow, unlike the stuffy theater I remembered from previous visits. Letheule says, “Altarena invested in a REME Halo air purifying unit. Between that and masking, we’ve made it safer for everyone who comes to the theater.”

Letheule leads me past the half-completed set and busy construction crew, through the smell of sawdust and paint, through a mazelike corridor to the dressing room.

Seated in the light of makeup mirrors, Letheule is the picture of enthusiasm. “We’re thrilled to be back! During the pandemic, we did Zoom like other theaters. We reinvented ourselves to stay current, but we want to stay live and connected with the community. We’ve been a local small theater since 1939.” Letheule herself started out at Altarena at 14 years old, acting and running lights, eventually directing. She still has Altarena friends from the 1970s.

Altarena’s upcoming production, The Quality of Life, was penned by award-winning playwright, Jane Anderson, a Bay Area native. According to her IMDB page, in addition to her work as a playwright, she is an Emmy award-winning writer. The Quality of Life originally premiered in 2007 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award in 2008 for Jane Anderson for Outstanding World Premiere Play as well as two Ovation Awards (Southern California awards for Excellence in Theatre) that same year.

Letheule says, “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for local stories. I saw The Quality of Life at ACT [PDF] and thought it would be great for Altarena. We were going to perform The Quality of Life in 2020. Two weeks from opening, the lockdown happened.” Back then, it felt important simply because it’s a Bay Area story.

Anderson’s play is set in 1991, after the East Bay hills wildfires. A bohemian couple is living in a yurt on their fire-scarred Berkeley property. Neil, the husband, has cancer. His wife, Jeanette, is conflicted about Neil’s course of treatment. Jeanette’s cousin, Dinah, a conservative Christian, lives in Ohio. Dinah and her husband, Bill, have also suffered a crushing loss. Dinah has convinced Bill to visit, in an attempt to take focus off their own troubles.

Letheule said, “A drama should be just that: hit all the human emotions and go deeper. This play has intense, adult themes about death, loss, religious conflict, and more. Now, as we navigate life-and-death decisions in the pandemic, it’s even more relevant. We’ve brought on a dynamic new cast. Ted Barker plays Neil, Bonnie DeChant plays Jeanette, Sindu Singh plays Dinah, and CJ Smith plays Bill. The writing is so good. It’s a long play, for mature audiences. Most beautiful, with all their differences, each couple learns from the situation, and they come away better.”

Alameda Post - The Quality of Life at Altarena Playhouse

The Quality of Life

Opens May 27 and closes June 26, 2022.
Fridays and Saturdays: 8:00 p.m., Sunday 2:00 p.m.
Tickets $30. Seniors and students, $27.

Altarena Playhouse
1409 High St.
Alameda, CA 94501 | (510) 523-1553[email protected]

At intermission, refreshments will be available for sale, including beverages, and cookies from Crispian Bakery.

Special Showings:

Pride Night: the last Thursday of every play’s closing weekend. The Quality of Life’s Pride Night is Thursday, June 23 at 8 p.m.
Sponsor Preview: Sponsors enjoy a 20-minute play preview, and a question-and-answer session with Altarena’s unseen but essential production team.


Contributing writer Alana Dill covers arts and culture for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at

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