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San Francisco by Richard Connema

First Love

Also see Richard's recent review of The World Goes 'Round

The Magic Theatre is presenting the West Coast premiere of Charles Mee's new two character play First Love. The production, directed by Mee's daughter Erin B. Mee, will play through June 30 at Ft. Mason. This is the second time the surreal drama has been presented to the general public. It first played in the fall of 2001 at the Zipper Theatre in the garment district of New York where it was presented by the New York Theatre Workshop. It received good notices from New York critics. Ms. Mee also directed that production

The one act drama is about a romance between Edith and Harold, who meet on a park bench in New York. Both have had other marriages, lives, children and careers, but neither has ever fallen in love before. They find that both are unrepentant radicals from the '60s and have something in common. They talk about all the great radicals like Abby Hoffman, Ché, Castro, etc. Edith says sadly in her commentary "We lost a lot when we lost communism."

The cantankerous elderly lovers plunge into an astonishingly passionate romance with jerky scenes involving singing, sex, bickering, arguing and angry name calling. The scene involving Harold playing on a red piano and Edith sitting up on the piano like a chanteuse singing golden oldies is wonderful. The couple's strange sex fetishes are displayed in the 90 minute piece. The romance progresses and then predictably disintegrates. However, there is a happy ending of sorts.

First Love has significant flaws. Some of the scenes go on much too long, such as when Edith throws plates out an open door stage left because she is very angry. She does not throw just one or two plates but complete sets of chinaware.

Joan Mankin plays Edith, a very brash and abrasive person. Mankin is excellent in the role, though she will get on one's nerves by the end of the play. Robert Parnell gives a consummate performance as a straight talking man who fusses about everything. Lindsay Drummer plays a small role as a very young, beautiful waitress in a restaurant scene. She also appears occasionally in surreal positions as imagined in Harold's mind.

The set is dreamlike with everything in light sky blue with little white fluffy clouds on every piece of furniture. There are also six blue and cloud white toasters, all standing up in a vertical position on the left side of the stage. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Overhead, there hangs a very large plastic stem and brilliant red rose. This is a very strange play.

First Love runs through June 30, and tickets can be obtained by calling 415-441-8822. The next production will be the World Premiere of Los Angeles based True Fictions Magazine's production of Ripped from the News. It opens on July 10.


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


- Richard Connema



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