Thursday, May 17, 2018

"A Number" at Aurora Theatre Company

Aurora photo by David Allen
We barely snuck in to see this show, on the next-to-last day of its extended run, so I apologize if this comes too late to be of use. We were intrigued by the description of the show, so we squeezed it between performances of our daughter's teen stage production.

I have sort of mixed reactions to Caryl Churchill's plays. Some are truly innovative and interesting, such as Top Girls, while others such as Love and Information don't seem very well developed. This play, A Number, is more of the first type, innovative and thought-provoking.

The Play

The play is short, and involves only two actors, and can easily be staged in a small space. That's good, because Aurora set the show in their "Upstage" theater, where we've seen a couple of other shows recently. It works well there, as it's easy to see everything in great detail.

Written in 2002 and set in "the near future," A Number explores some of the emotional and philosophical issues involved in human cloning. Some of it seems a little naive and dated, but on the whole it's a pretty interesting piece.

The central character is Salter, who gets visited by three of his sons, one at a time, all of whom are clones. Maybe. The story changes as we proceed, starting with Salter explaining that his real son died (with his mother) in an accident, and since that son was so perfect, he had him cloned so he could have him back. But it turns out there are other clones out there, that perhaps the lab that cloned the kid made others, a number of others, in fact.

But as each of the sons interacts with Salter, the story changes a bit. One son is actually the original, maybe, so (obviously) he didn't die, but his father had other reasons for wanting a clone of his perfect son. Both of these first sons feel a great degree of angst about having another of them (or perhaps a number of other thems) about, and they express that in various ways. So there is investigation of the notion of identity and uniqueness. How are clones different from twins, for example? What does it matter if there are a number of essentially identical people out there? And just how identical are they, besides having the same genes?

All good questions, but it's a good thing the play doesn't go on too long with it, because there is a limit to how much angst one can handle on this subject. There is definitely a lot of intensity.

I quite like the last scene, where a third cloned son meets Salter, but this one has basically no concerns whatsoever about the whole scenario, which Salter finds somewhat disturbing. I quite like the pushback of having a character who seems to be completely at home in his own skin, unconcerned that there might be other, quite similar people in quite similar skins, too.

On the whole, I suppose the play generates a bit more heat than light, but it does cover a pretty good range of the ethical and personal issues involved with human cloning.

The Production

I'll be brief here, since you missed it. The set (designed by Michael Locher) was small and quite simple: a round, basically white room with a couple of chairs, a desk, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Jim Cave's lights and Matt Stines' soundscape do a good job of creating the tense, intense atmosphere for the play.

Paul Vincent O'Connor portrays Salter throughout, and he's quite good up close. Joseph Patrick O'Malley plays all the cloned sons, and does a great job of creating the characters with both similarities and differences, with only very slight changes in Christine Crook's costumes signifying which son we see at the moment. O'Malley is really quite masterful in coherently portraying the three different, yet essentially similar characters, so that really worked.

Bottom Line

The show was quite well done, and I was glad we went to see it. Overall, I don't think the subject matter turned out to be as important or controversial as Churchill probably anticipated fifteen years ago, but it does make for an interesting character study in any case.

Good job by Aurora and the crew on this one. I'm so far consistently impressed with the shows I've seen in their small upstage theater.

"Father Comes Home From the Wars" at ACT

ACT photo my Joan Marcus
Suzan-Lori Parks is perhaps the modern playwright I have been most curious about. I hear raves about her work, but until now I had not seen any of them performed. So I've been looking forward to the current offering at ACT since I saw the season announcement last year.

The Play

Father Comes Home from the Wars is a really ambitious project. Sort of like Star Wars, it is a nine-part saga that apparently consists of three related trilogies. Unlike those movies, though, Parks has decided to start at the beginning, so we currently see Parts I, II, and III. My understanding is that the subsequent parts are not yet written.

Anyway, the three "parts" serve as essentially three acts in a long afternoon or evening of theater. The whole presentation is about three hours long, with each of the parts taking up approximately an hour. ACT puts an intermission between parts II and III, although part III is the shortest of the three. I will just refer to these three parts as "the play" for purposes of this article, since together they are the play we saw.

The play is quite loosely based on The Odyssey by Homer. The central character, Hero, is a slave whose owner is going off to join the American Civil War as an officer. He gives Hero the choice of whether to accompany him. Part I consists of a group of slaves (and later, Hero himself) debating whether and why Hero should go. It's actually a pretty interesting discussion and dilemma. On the one hand, it's hard work in the service of an army dedicated to preserving the institution of slavery, so an obvious conflict for Hero. On the other hand, the master has promised Hero his freedom if he goes with him, which is terribly, terribly tempting. Complicating matters is the revelation that the master has promised freedom once before, and reneged.

This part is really well written and realized. The slaves act as kind of a Greek chorus behind Hero and his not-quite-wife, Penny. A character called the Oldest Old Man serves as both a surrogate father to hero and a source of wisdom for the group. On the whole I found this first act quite compelling and interesting.

In Part II we are off to the war, where we see the master (now known as The Colonel) and Hero (spoiler...he ends up going to war) in a rough camp with an injured Union prisoner named Smith. Here the issues and temptations are different, and the nature of the play changes, too. We get longer, more drawn-out, and thoughtful discussions of issues and ethical questions. How to treat this officer, captured from leading a regiment of free Negro soldiers? Is he actually their white officer, or a Negro soldier passing for white? The relations of both The Colonel and Hero to Smith get pretty interesting. Presented with the temptation of escape, perhaps to join the Union army, how will Hero choose?

And finally in Part III, we have Penny and another slave, Homer, back home awaiting Hero's return from the war, in the temporary company of a group of runaway slaves. We get more of the backstory of Homer, Penny, and Hero, as well as a look at how Penny and Homer have been keeping busy in Hero's absence. And then when Hero arrives, there are more choices and a number of secrets that have to be dealt with. And Hero's dog (missing, in a running gag in Part I) arrives home ahead of Hero and narrates much of what has happened. Yes, a talking dog.

I thought Part III was probably the weakest writing of the whole (and not just because of the talking dog, but really). But it does wrap up a lot of the story lines, and leaves enough dangling that we have the promise of some interesting developments for Parts IV and onward to follow succeeding generations.

The play is long (epic, one might say), but it holds interest in part because it is well crafted and coherent. There are enough twists and turns to maintain some suspense and foil any predictions one might have made. It's just good writing, with some quite interesting characters.

The Production

ACT is presenting Father Comes Home in association with Yale Repertory Theatre, and the play actually opened first at Yale Rep, so even though I saw this fairly early in the San Francisco run, the show was quite polished and smooth. All the staging and lighting and such have come from Yale, though expanded a bit for the Geary Theater's larger stage.

Also, the cast is intact, as far as I can tell, and that really helps. One big highlight in the cast for me was Steven Anthony Jones as the Oldest Old Man. I'm a long-time fan of Jones, but was rather disappointed by his work in ACT's Hamlet earlier this season. But here he was reminiscent of his best work, which was a delight to see. Local fixture Dan Hiatt was quite good as The Colonel, as well.

Some younger local actors had good turns in the show, too. Rotimi Agbabiaka, last seen in Shotgun's Black Rider, and Safiya Fredericks, recently in ACT's The Hard Problem and the Magic's Grandeur (among other shows) stand out in the ensemble of slaves. I was also impressed with Tom Pecinka as Smith and Eboni Flowers as Penny. James Udom does a fine turn as Hero, which is quite a demanding role. Longtime ACT company member Gregory Wallace seems a bit out of place until he surfaces as the talking dog, which is a role he seems destined for.

All in all, it's a fine production, well designed. It probably doesn't need to be three hours long. I suspect some judicious editing could trim some of Parks' text that gets a little repetitive, but on the whole, it's fine. The nature of the subject matter kind of requires that it be a bit drawn out, so it's hard to complain on that score.

Bottom Line

This is well worth seeing. The material is strong, and the production is polished and coherent. I'm glad I finally got to see one of Parks' plays, and I look forward to more. (I just picked up a copy of the script to Topdog/Underdog so I can read it, and I see that Ubuntu Theater Company is about to stage that show.)

The show runs through May 20th, so you still have many chances to see it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Reading: "Hurricane Diane" at Shotgun Players

Readers of this blog will recall that I am quite a fan of the playwright Madeleine George. Last year I was a production sponsor for Shotgun's production of her wonderful play, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, which the year before had been part of Shotgun's Champagne Staged Reading Series. And my introduction to George's writing was Shotgun's earlier production of her play Precious Little. One thing all of these Shotgun/George collaborations had in common was director (and sometimes, actor, Nancy Carlin).

So it comes as no surprise that Shotgun got the first chance to do a public reading of George's latest play, Hurricane Diane, and that they would once again tap Carlin to direct it. As one would expect from this writer, it is not a simple play, but it is both funny and moving, and has a lot to say on a lot of topics.

And as with all of Shotgun's staged readings, this is a remarkable achievement, as they take a group of actors and a director, give them only a few days to rehearse, and then put on two nights of rather elaborately staged readings, script-in-hand.

The Play

Madeleine George does not think small. This new play is loosely based on Euripides' classic tragedy The Bacchae. So those are pretty big shoes to fill. In this play, Dionysus (or as she calls herself these days, "Diane") comes to earth after a bit of a hiatus, only to find that modern humans have lost their connection with the planet they live on, and are therefor close to destroying it. So she sets out to recruit her four bacchae who will help her recover her following and the planet. And of course she sets out to do this in suburban New Jersey.

Appearing in the guise of a landscape designer, Diane sets out to reconnect four women who live in a suburban cul-de-sac with the blessings of the natural world. Pam, Carol, Renee, and Beth are all neighbors more concerned with how they measure up against HGTV Magazine and maximizing resale value of their homes than with any connection to the natural world.

So Diane comes to each and tries in various ways to reconnect them with the glory of nature, rather than the draw of the manufactured world. She has varying levels of success with each. The process inevitably involves the women connecting with themselves, as they struggle with their social conditioning against the forces of Diane and nature.

The Performance

As usual, it's hard to assess acting in a staged reading. This reading featured three actors I know quite well: Sarah Mitchell (Carol), Cathleen Riddley (Renee) and Megan Trout (Beth). The other two actors were less familiar to me: Maria Affinito (Pam) and Amy Lizardo in the central role of Diane. I did overhear one audience member say she had been smitten with Affinito (or her character; it was a little hard to tell from context). In general everyone was fine, and I thought the use of a single table to represent the generic suburban home of each of the women was clever.

All told I thought it was a little hard to judge this play (unlike, for example, Watson, where I walked out of the reading knowing I needed to see it fully staged). There is a lot going on, and some very clever dialogue. I'm not sure I'm familiar enough with The Bacchae to really grasp all the nuances of this riff on it, so I need to do that homework one of these days.

Bottom Line

It's good. I'd like to read it again and do some more detailed thinking about it, but I know there is something more to this that I'm not yet appreciating, and I need to figure out whether that's just me or the play needs fuller staging or what.

Meanwhile, as usual, I saw this on closing night, so regardless of what I say, you can't see it now. I will keep my eyes on this play, though, and I suspect we may see it produced somewhere about.

"Iron Shoes" at Shotgun Players

Shotgun Players photo by Ben Krantz Studio
I didn't feel any urgency about blogging about this show because it was completely sold out for the entire run, so no pressure to urge people to go (or avoid). Of course, that also meant I didn't have a lot of incentive to write it up at all, so here we are, on the day the show closes, and I'm finally writing.

And it's not that I'm reluctant to write about the show as such, but I will admit that it's been hard thinking about what I was going to say. This is a most unorthodox production of a brand new show, so I find it a bit hard to describe. But I'll do my best.

The Play

I'm almost reluctant to call this a play, but I don't really have any other word that describes it any better. It is kind of a multimedia performance art piece, featuring singing, dancing, and a narration (or multiple narrations) that end up being part of the action. It's really very complex.

The show is a collaboration and joint production between Berkeley's Shotgun Players and the Oakland-based Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble. Kitka is known for a capella  versions of Eastern European-style music. Iron Shoes is a rendering of three traditional Eastern European folk tales that all involve young girls getting tricked and/or taken advantage of, and all having to redeem themselves by walking to wear out a pair of iron shoes.

We start with our narrator and her apprentice describing the story and the ensemble acting it out, with the ensemble singing the music as well. It's all sort of like opera, but with a narrator (or two) instead of supertitles. But as we get into the tales, the narrator loses some of her objectivity and detachment, and eventually starts interacting directly with some of the characters. So in addition to the three folk tales, we also have the narrator's journey, as it were.

Truthfully, the tales themselves aren't all that intricate or interesting. But the method of telling the stories is quite engaging, and the show definitely holds one's interest. The third girl's story kind of gets short shrift, feeling almost like an afterthought. It's definitely the toughest of the stories (as the narrator makes abundantly clear), but it lacks the theatricality of the previous stories with their magical animals and such. It all works, and part of the magic of the show is that it takes three fairly simple folk tales and weaves them into something much more interesting.

The Production

There are times when the whole production feels like it could be just a skit in school, but for the fact that there is this amazing and complex vocal harmony backing it all the time. And eventually, the story line becomes decidedly more involved that any of the simple, original stories. So there is a solid and building soundscape that underpins what seems to be a simple, even simplistic staging of simple stories, but nevertheless it is spellbinding.

Some of that spell comes from the increasing discomfort that the narrator (Beth Wilmurt) begins to express. We start to question how much agency the characters have in their own stories, and by extension, how much we have in our own. By the time the narrator has been co-opted into the story itself, we start to see an answer emerging.

Truthfully, I didn't know what to expect of this show, and even some way into it, I wasn't sure what to make of it. But the blending of clever writing with the exquisite Kitka music and movement and dance choreographed by director Erika Chong Shuch forms a truly spectacular whole that is still quite hard to describe.

Bottom Line

I don't know whether this show has a future beyond this initial joint production, but there is really some remarkable artistry on display, and it was well worth seeing. Sadly, as noted earlier, it closes its run today after literally selling out every seat for the entire run. So clearly there is a market for this kind of show!

I will be interested to see whether this results either in further productions of this show, or perhaps more collaborations down the road. But it's definitely fascinating to see what happens when all these artists get outside the bounds of the usual conceptions of art, vocal music, dance, and theater. Cool stuff happens!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"James and the Giant Peach" at Berkeley Playhouse

Berkeley Playhouse photo by Cheshiredave Creative
My daughter tells me that my knowledge of the collected works of Roald Dahl is woefully inadequate, mostly because I only ever read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the sequel about the elevator and then stopped. I was at least aware of "James and the Giant Peach," but never read it myself, either in my youth or to my daughter.

So I felt I was at a bit of a disadvantage going to see Berkeley Playhouse's mainstage production of the musical adaptation of James and the Giant Peach. I need not have worried, because it's not a terribly complicated story line. Maybe the book has more to it, but there's not a lot of substance to the book of this play.

The Play

In the grand tradition of British children's literature, the story starts with an orphaned child (the eponymous James) who gets sent to live with his only living relatives, two aunts named Spiker and Sponge. They are essentialy con artists and grifters who plan to exploit James as their house servant while they live it up on the £27 a month they will get for taking him in. In Dover (that's a plot point).

Meanwhile, James befriends some of the local insects, envying their freedom. And when tasked with chopping down the dismal old peach tree in the yard, he balks, saving the tree. Miraculously (or really, magically), an extremely large--one might even say giant--peach appears on the previously barren tree. Spiker and Sponge see this as a further opportunity to get some unearned income.

But the peach rolls away, down the hill and over the White Cliffs (see? Dover was a plot point) and into the English Channel. Taking with it James and some really large insects and bugs (Spider, Centipede, Ladybug, Earthworm, Glowworm, and Grasshopper). Peaches float, so they float across the ocean, learning important lessons about themselves and others and acceptance and choosing your real family and such. It's a bit treacly, even for children's fare, but that's the story.

All along, there is a magician who keeps popping in to do magic and sing a bit. His presence isn't explained until quite near the end. I found him a bit mystifying, though I guess the explanation at the end makes at least some sense.

But overall, best not to think too much about the plot and such. This is really just a bit of story holding together a lot of singing and dancing and bright colors. It's quite fun and crowd-pleasing. Just don't dig too deeply into the interpretations.

The Production

I've been consistently impressed with the shows I've seen at Berkeley Playhouse, with high-quality acting and music. The Julia Morgan Theater is lovely, of course, but a bit lacking as a modern theater facility. But this is not where we go looking for glitz and polish. This is more of a seat-of-the-pants operation that emphasizes the performances and not the refinement of the sets, lights, and sounds.

Even at that, however, I thought the production values on this show came up a little short. The set was obviously meant to be whimsical, but despite the bright colors it seemed a bit clunky and slow to move (with rather intrusive stage hands moving pieces), and the lighting just didn't reach some places and there were noticeable drop-outs in the sound a times that made it a bit hard to follow some of the dialogue.

But I can't be too critical here: The acting, singing, and dancing were all very good. Some of the performances were really quite excellent, starting with Elliot Choate as James. His singing is really quite strong, and he's only a fifth grader. The group of critters that James floats away with, particularly Christian Arteaga as Earthworm and Brian E. A. Miller as Grasshopper. Maya Sherer as Glowworm manages to be quite winsome, in contrast to her role at the start of the show as the Matron Nurse at the orphanage.

The over-the-top evil aunts (Heather Orth as Spiker and Matt Standley as Sponge) are quite the nasty pair, and often seem set to take over the whole show and chew up all the scenery as well, but director (and founding Artistic Director) Elizabeth McKoy keeps them sufficiently in check so they are merely amusing within the scope of the whole show. Because in contrast to their antics, the interactions of the sensitive insects and bugs could be quite overshadowed, but they manage to hold their own.

Bottom Line

This show definitely falls into the category of amusing pieces of fluff that you can safely take the whole family to see. It's a bit sentimental without being cloying, and wholesome but with a good sense of fun. So as long as you're not looking to think too hard, this could be the show for you. It's well done in a homey sort of way.

The show runs through May 6, so you still have plenty of chances to see it.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Wolves" at Marin Theatre Company

Marin Theatre Company photo by Kevin Berne
On a whim, we ran over to Mill Valley on Easter Sunday to see the current production of The Wolves, by Sarah DeLappe. It's a play about the members of a fairly elite, suburban, teenage girls' soccer team called the Wolves. As a parent of a teen daughter (who does not play soccer), I was interested to see what the play had to say about the lives of these teens.

The Play

This is an interesting play, in that it doesn't have a narrative line per se, though there is a timeline and there is action and plot development, but it's decidedly episodic. Also, considering it's about a soccer team, we mostly see warmups, rather than any actual game situations. So we get glimpses of the girls interacting with one another, from which we interpolate facts about their lives.

The technique is pretty effective, in that it leaves each of us to draw our inferences about what's happening, then later corroborates or refutes our surmises with further information. That part is pretty cleverly handled.

Initially the chaos of multiple conversations going on among a shifting grouping of girls doing stretches and warm-up exercises is a bit confusing, but ultimately the brain catches up, and it is a pretty accurate portrayal of the shifting, multi-threaded conversations that teens partake in.

I found it a bit odd that the players almost never use each other's names, but refer to each other by number. That works as a device in the script, but seems entirely unlike any teen girls I have ever known. This is particularly striking because most of these girls have played together for many years.

Also, the coaching deficiency is rather striking. I can understand having to hire a coach the team isn't thrilled with, but the degree of dereliction in this coach would never be tolerated on this kind of serious team.

But as a result of all this, we have a sort of artificially isolated group of girls which only occasionally devolves into some kind of "Lord of the Flies" scenario of youthful self-rule. Eventually the personalities and life circumstances of the individual girls seep through the numeric-uniform impersonality to give us a feel for who these girls are and what they're up to, individually and collectively.

The Performance

By setting the play in an indoor soccer league, we can justify having a smaller number of players (there are nine in the cast, plus a brief, late appearance by a soccer mom) and the small, bleak, artificially-turfed stage that passes for the indoor stadium. I thought they could have done a little more to dress up the set, but it functions.

The actors are all young women who can pretty much pass for older high-school students (they are supposed to be juniors). The only one who affirmatively seems "too old" for her role is the goalie (Betsy Norton), but she's quite good and one fairly quickly suspends disbelief on that score.

As one might expect, there are a range of skills and personalities portrayed among the team, and the actors do an effective job of establishing their individual personas as well as blending into the team. It's a little difficult to say with any certainty which little quirks might be acting deficiencies and which might be intentional acting choices, so in that sense I just go with the flow and decide that it's all acting and direction.

As it's really an ensemble piece, the individuals don't really particularly stand out (which is why I'm not calling any out by name). The device of having the Soccer Mom (Liz Sklar) arrive toward the end, although important to the plot, didn't seem to work very well. Her interactions with the team didn't seem authentic from either side.

Bottom Line

This is a good show. I wouldn't say it's an especially compelling piece of writing, though it is clever and skillful at times. And the acting isn't (and doesn't need to be) brilliant or showy. As noted, this is an ensemble piece that is about individuals playing as part of a team, not about any particular prima donna(s).

I thought it was all quite effective and interesting, if sometimes a bit contrived. Well worth seeing, especially if you want to know a bit of what the kids are up to these days.

The show runs for two more weekends, through April 15th.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"Heisenberg" at ACT

ACT rehearsal photo by Beryl Baker
As longtime readers will recall, I'm a sucker for a play about science. So when I saw the ACT was doing a show called Heisenberg, that got me going. Werner Heisenberg is, of course, an important character in Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, of course, and his role in the development of nuclear physics is well known.

Simon Stephens' play, however, has nothing at all to do with the scientist or science. The popular perception of Heisenberg's work boils down to a single concept, known as the uncertainty principle, which is loosely understood to mean that an outside observer cannot simultaneously know the position and momentum of a quantum particle with any precision. This is (as with most of quantum physics) both extremely counterintuitive and wholly inapplicable to life on the human scale. This has to do with the way an observer affects objects being observed, but again, this applies only to observations of quantum effects, not humans or human-scale objects.

That doesn't mean it can't serve as something of a metaphor, which is roughly what Stephens attempts here. More or less, this play says if you know where you are, you can't know where you're going, and vice versa.

The Play

But enough of theory, let's talk about the play. Alex is a 75-year-old butcher who likes to sit in train stations, even though he doesn't like to go places. He loves being in London, though. One day as he sits on a bench in the station, the loud, flighty American Georgie approaches him and immediately starts telling rather bizarre, incoherent, and untruthful stories. Although bemused and somewhat annoyed, Alex finds himself somewhat engaged by the whole encounter.

Next we find Alex working in his butcher shop, when who should walk in but Georgie? She has tracked him down using her super Google powers, so now we think she's a psychotic stalker. But it turns out she only wants to con him out of enough money to go find her son in New Jersey. Maybe. Meanwhile, Alex is rather stoic and lonely, seems to know he's getting toward the end of his life (which appears to have no other people in it, at all, except one girlfriend of his youth), so what has he got to lose by talking with his stalker?

So they date. Alex gives a really exceptional speech about listening to all kinds of music, though it ends with a facile appropriation of the notion that the music isn't in the notes, but the spaces between them. They go to bed. Because, you know, why not?

For reasons good or ill, they end up going to New Jersey together, despite his stated aversion to travel and her inability to keep a story straight. It seems to be a fairly quirky but workable relationship. End of play.

So it's a character study, which is not generally my cup of tea, and it rates as fairly implausible, even if you try to apply some pop-culture version of the Heisenberg principle to human interactions. We never know where the relationship is going, or why. Just deal with it.

The Production

The acting carries the day here. Bay area stalwart James Carpenter is outstanding in his portrayal of Alex. The staid, soft-spoken butcher has an incredibly expressive face and subtle body language. Sarah Grace Wilson can't possibly be as annoying as her portrayal of Georgie, so I give her credit as an actor. Together they manage to have a degree of chemistry (or physics--see? I can make facile science jokes, too!) that seems unwarranted by anything in the script, but manages to make the bizarre relationship tenable.

The first couple of scenes are truly irritating, with Georgie creating a situation that any but the ever-patient Alex would have extricated themselves from. But once we pass peak irritation, it just becomes a strange and quirky (if still somewhat predatory and exploitative) relationship, fitting the tropes of many a romantic comedy. It really is only because the acting is so exceptional that one can really stand to see it through.

The set design is clever, with an octagonal wooden platform that can raise sections to serve as a bench, a butcher's counter, a bed, a restaurant table, etc. But on the big Geary Theater stage, the two people feel truly isolated (which is apt, because there are no other characters in this story except mentions of Alex's long-ago fiance and Georgie's gone-to-Jersey son). Maybe that isolation is meant to mean more than the characters' lack of social connections, and somehow ties into the faux-physics notions, but mostly it just seems like an awful lot of stage space for what is essentially a very small play.

Bottom Line

As is often the case with the genre of modern romantic comedies, one has to completely suspend disbelief and just go with the fact that for some reason these characters find some attraction in one another, despite the efforts of one or both to demonstrate that any such attraction is at best masked behind cynical attempts to defraud or at least mislead. At least the quality actors in this production make at least a plausible attempt at showing some changes in the characters that can justify why they eventually pair up.

As a character study, I guess it's OK. As a vehicle for two really good actors, it's excellent, and worth seeing just for that. But I wish they had a more plausible vehicle that actually justifies the time and effort of the artists. because of them it's pretty good, but feels like it really ought to be better.

The show runs for another week, through April 8, at ACT's Geary Theater.