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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Carved in Stone

Also see Richard's review of Confessions of a Mormon

Imagine four gay literary icons sitting around the “afterlife lounge” in a special corner of heaven bitching and camping with each other. Imagine that a hot young hunk, who really does not know his sexuality and has just written a gay literary sensation before his death, has entered this sacred site. Apparently playwright Jeffrey Hartgraves and director John Fisher could imagine it well. Theatre Shark is presenting their production of Carved in Stone at the Eureka Theatre through August 31.

The icons that love to bitch and drink cocktails are Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Quentin Crisp in this 90 minute romp through literary history. As usual, John Fisher does not let the play stand only on its own merits. The director throws in famous drag artist Matthew Martin who wanders in to play a neurotic Judy Garland, an over the top Betty Davis and an undeveloped Gertrude Stein. Apparently Mr. Fisher did not think P.A. Cooley was funny enough as Capote so he added Martin as additional comedy relief.

This is a play of ideas. The artists raise compelling questions about “where does fact end and fiction begin ...” The big question in the play is whether or not the new young author is gay, even though he strongly denies it. The young lad believes that someone writing about a gay man does not make the author gay. He thinks that his intentions for the manuscript have been badly misunderstood.

All of the actors give good accounts of their characters. Playwright Jeffrey Hartgraves plays Tennessee Williams, and he is perfect in the role, catching the mannerisms and speech of the artist and underplaying the role perfectly. Popular actor P.A. Cooley plays the sarcastic Capote a little over the top. He is too restless as he bitches about everything. However, he does have an excellent scene in which he talks about his writing In Cold Blood. He becomes more human during that speech. Matt Weimer does a good imitation of Oscar Wilde, however he could have been droller in his speech. Leon Acord looks and acts like Quentin Crisp and he has that role down pat.

Newcomer David Tenenbaum plays the mixed up young author. The actor starts out slow but finally gets into the spirit of the play as it progresses. Matthew Martin, as usual, does good imitations of Garland and Davis. Martin does a medley of Garland’s hits and also throws out caustic remarks as to why she has to entertain all the time. Martin’s take on Gertrude Stein is very droll - I wish he had developed this character more; it is the best character he portrays in this comedy piece. Drew Todd plays several walk on characters: the frazzled Alice B. Toklas and William Shakespeare.

Stephen Ritchings' set is excellent with stars twinkling in the background and a light wooden lounge that has some Asian influence. Fisher’s staging is good and fast paced. Hartgraves has presented some good gags in a rather long camp literary script. It is an entertaining evening.

Carved in Stone runs through August 31 at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco. Tickets are $17 - $20. Call 415-778-4077 or visit www.leonacord.com.


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


- Richard Connema



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