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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Lily Tomlin in San Francisco

Also see Richard's review of James Joyce's The Dead


Lily Tomlin is knocking them dead at the Theatre on Square in her one person show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The production has been held over twice and is expected to run until the end of November. She has had an enthusiastic, capacity audience each night, full of adoring fans.

I saw Tomlin in this show back in 1986; there has been some updating from the original, but basically this is the same one person show. I am not a huge fan of Ms. Tomlin but for three hours (including intermission) she knocked out more one liners than anyone could possibly remember. She is one great actress and she changes characters in a second, from Chrissy, a would be career woman wandering from job to job, to both Edie and Pam, a lesbian couple who have a child through a strange sperm ritual that I won't go into. Her other characters are Lyn, a sensitive working mom, the punk teenager Agnus Angst who is alienated from the world, Trudy, bag lady and self proclaimed consultant to aliens from outer space, Kate, the ultra ultra rich lady who is full of neuroses about the left side of her hair and even a male called Paul at the Health Club in Los Angeles.

The 61 year old Ms. Tomlin has amazing physical skills and there is no denying she is an astonishing comedienne. She bursts onto the stage in a great eruption of light and sharp sci-fi sound effects. She is dressed in a plain dark outfit, jumping and dancing around with great abandonment. She goes from character to character in a split second. It is truly something to watch.

The words are written by her life partner and collaborator Jane Wagner. When she is Trudy, Tomlin picks these little notes from her body and reads them to the audience. Gems like, "Don't be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed" or the wonderful gem, "I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody." How about "We are all in this alone"? As Jimmy Durante used to say, "she's got a million of 'em."

I think the one drawback with her show is that it is just too overpowering. It's difficult to take it all in. The most interesting part of the evening is the opening of the second act when she plays the sensitive working wife Trudy with twin boys to raise. This is the most cohesive monologue of the evening and very interesting as she relates her life from the birth of the twins to their growing up. Here, her dramatic capabilities really shine.

Tomlin's curtain calls are marvelous. She is like the teenager Agnus skipping and hopping about with her hands extended to the audience. It is like Sally Field at the Oscars saying "You like me, you really like me." Ms. Tomlin's show has been extended to November 25, at the Theatre On the Square, 450 Post Street, San Francisco. You can charge tickets by phone at (415)433-9500.




Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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