Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Smut: An Unseemly Story (The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson)
Word for Word Theatre Company
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's review of The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd


Søren Oliver and
Nancy Shelby

Photo by Mel Solomon
Word for Word Theatre Company is presenting an outrageous R-rated comedy by British treasure Alan Bennett. Smut: An Unseemly Story (The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson) (one of the two stories included in Bennett's Smut: Two Unseemly Stories) is the perfect balance of dirty and very proper British. This play is funny and compassionate, silly and soulful.

The plot tells about middle-aged Jane Donaldson (Nancy Shelby), a widow running a boardinghouse for students. She works part time as a "patient simulator" in the hospital, being prodded by student doctors in a program run by Dr. Duncan Ballantyne (Soren Oliver). The dialogue in the hospital is hilarious, such as a medical student referring to a patient on life-support: "if we switched her off it would reduce her carbon footprint." Two young people, Laura (Rose Hallett) and Andy (Andre Amarotico), are behind in their rent and suggest having sex in front of Mrs. Donaldson, correctly perceiving she will enjoy it. What follows a hysterical R-rated sex act with Mrs. Donaldson sitting on a bench next to them.

Among Dr. Ballantyne's patient are Gwen (Delia MacDougall), who cannot say that f-word, and Terry Porter (Robert Parsons), who likes to dress in drag and sing the Four Seasons song "My Eyes Adored You."

Director Amy Kossow has assembled a wonderful cast of actors to put on the funniest show of 2017. Nancy Shelby portrays wonderfully prim and proper Mrs. Donaldson. Soren Oliver, with his powerful theatrical voice, is outstanding as Doctor Ballantyne. Robert Parsons, with a wonderful mid-country English accent, is superb in the role of Terry and he looks good in drag. Delia MacDougall plays three roles in this farce and she is dazzling in every one, including the overdramatic daughter of Mrs. Donaldson. Newcomers Andre Amarotico and Rosie Hallett give first-class performances as Andy and Laura. Their sex scene is hilarious. Phil Wong and Patricia Silver give excellent performances in smaller roles.

Bottom Line: This is wonderful farce and I laughed my tuchis off.

Smut An Unseemly Story (The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson) runs through June 11, 2017, at Z Below, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco. For tickets go to www.zspace.org.


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