Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Curvy Widow, The Scene and Territories
Cybill Shepherd is a lovely, tall, curvy blonde woman who had a husband for 27 years who passed away. She discovered that "she was uncomfortable being alone" so she had a six-year affair with a married man, which she describes as a "bad French movie." Now, still being "uncomfortably alone," this brassy, wealthy lady discovers Internet dating. She joins a sex chat club and calls herself Curvy Widow. She has a little trouble at first, saying there should be an AARP handbook on dating. Thinking about what to list in her profile, she describes herself as being of average intelligence, having a good ass, and being a widow with no walker. She does not want marriage, just a playmate. The curvy widow describes many of her tricks. Some are very humorous. She describes dating 25-35 year old men as being like "having a snack" and she calls them Frito-Lays. She likes dating gay men since they are cool, "but what is bad about them is the thing."
The curvy widow finally meets a wonderful marriage-minded Mr. Right who wants to be with her all the time. But is she happy? In a word, no. She tells the man she would enjoy being with him three days a week. This is supposed to be an authenticate epiphany for her.
Bobby Goldman, who is the widow of playwright, scenarist and novelist James Goldman, has no clue of how to write drama, comedy or theater works. There is no arc, no real character and certainly no reprieve in the long evening's empty-headed production. Her writing does nothing for Cybill Shepherd. This role would have been much better for Lily Tomlin, Rita Rudner or a Jewish comedienne.
Director Scott Schwartz (Golda's Balcony) and scenic designer David C. Woolard try to put some life into the production with a handsome three-level set that is stark white; most of the furnished items are sculptured on the walls. Michael Clark projects interesting images that range from email texts to city maps to enlarged photographic interiors and exteriors.
Curvy Widow plays through March 9th at the Post Street Theatre at 450 Post Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-771-6900 or on line at www.ticketmaster.com.
Photo: Greg Mooney
Theresa Rebeck is a very perceptive writer who has a clear view of the entertainment industry, especially the media world where these characters work. The dialogue is razor sharp and the writing is very typical of what would come from these characters who inhabit the world of show biz. Some of the plot reminds me of the film All About Eve, as a young, very svelte girl from Ohio becomes the catalyst of the two-act drama. Clea (Heather Gordon), who says she recently came from Ohio (or did she?), comes to New York be one of the celebrated young hip New Yorkers. She is a vacuous party girl who is out for the "joie de vivre."
Clea meets unemployed actor Charlie (Aaron Davidman) at one of these swinging parties, but they don't hit it off at the beginning. Clea has that hip way of talking like an affected Valley girl, using words like "mind-blowing, it's oh so surreal, these parties." Charlie's wife of 14 years, Stella (Nancy Carlin), is the wage earner of the family. She is a talent booker for a talk show, which she finds undignified and deceitful. She believes these people are all liars and don't give a damn for anything. Lewis (Howard Swain) is the sexually obsessed friend of Charlie and Stella who still has a thing for Stella.
Charlie has a chance for a good paying acting job on a television film pilot being made by a former high school classmate. However, he does not like the idea of kissing the producer's butt to get the role. After a disastrous lunch with the man Charlie decides to drop into Lewis's apartment unannounced to complain about the meeting. Lewis is just about to get down to business with Clea, and things turn around completely when Lewis is sent out for more booze, and sex rears its ugly head between Charlie and Clea (as the old saying goes, opposites attract). Things go from bad to worse with the breakup of Charlie and Stella's marriage. It is all down hill for Charlie and all up hill for the manipulative Clea in the world of entertainment.
Heather Gordon (Barefoot in the Park, Public Exposure and recently crowned Miss Marin County 2008) is splendid in the role of the scheming Clea, a droll, self-centered monster who somehow gets what she wants. Clea has little or no compassion for people (she is the Anne Baxter of this piece). Nancy Carlin (who took over the role on opening night since Daphne Zuniga was too ill to perform) shows what a pro she is by jumping into the very difficult role of Charlie's wife Stella with very little rehearsal, superbly playing the character who's not much more compassionate than Clea.
Aaron Davidman (actor/director/playwright, artistic director of Traveling Jewish Theatre) is excellent as the out of work actor Charlie. He brings the flawless timing to the role of a a shmuck. His monologue on the shameful lunch he had with the despicable high school friend is priceless. Howard Swain (Off-Broadway in Horizon and Hysteria at the Aurora) exhibits fine comic chops as Lewis. His character is really not fleshed out, but he is hilarious with nervous energy and willingness to please.
The West Coast premiere of The Scene continues through March 8th at the SF Playhouse located at 588 Sutter Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or visit www.ticketweb.com. Their next production is Coronado by Dennis Lehane opening March 22nd and running through April 26th.
Photo: Zabrina Tipton
Territories is a sharp, suspenseful, historic story set during the Third Crusade. The drama is a coldblooded chess game of supremacy, and love develops as two cultures collide. Alia (Nora el Samahy), the sharp-tongue sister of sultan Saladdin (Alfred Narciso), insists that she will go unescorted against the wishes of her brother to Mecca to pray. On the way, she is captured by the brutal French knight Reginald (Rod Gnapp). (This might have been the reason that the Battle of Hattin in 1187 pitted Saladdin against Reginald of Chatillon and led to the Third Crusade).
The drama consists of rapid scenes crisscrossing between the past and the present in a fast-paced one-act drama. The past scenes relate to strong-minded Alia arguing with her brother about traveling to Mecca, and the present scenes the razor-sharp confrontations with her captor Reginald in the prison. These wars of words offer the strongest part of the piece. Reginald, who is known to be the cruelest of knights, starts to fall in love with this intelligent woman. She even gets the lord to start a fight with the sultan.
Territories' ending is not as successful, as it involves the battle of Hattin, with Reginald and Saladdin drawing swords and going into a strange, whirling dance with Alia in the middle. The ending is symbolic as Alia suffocates herself in the black confines of her burka. It is as if the woman has disappeared from the history of the famous battle.
Rod Gnapp (Frozen, The Rain Maker) is excellent as the recreant knight who seeps nastiness, slyness and eerie charm. He brags about his skill in devising tortures for his prisoners. Nora el Samahy (Expedition 6, The Black Eyed) is riveting as the captive daughter of the sultan, Alia, who intermingles intimidation and sensuality. Alfredo Narciso (New York at Roundabout, Rattlestick and New Group) gives a good performance as Saladdin.
Set designer Melpomene Katakalos has designed am interesting Islamic screen in the three-sided seat theatre. Behind the screen percussionist Brandi Brandes sits and plays an exciting live score. The set by is beguilingly lit by Ray Oppenheimer.
Territories played the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason, San Francisco through February 10th. Their next production is the world premiere of Edna O'Brien's Tir Na Nog ("Land of Youth"), opening on February 23 and running through March 23. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.