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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Steve Murray's Rescue and Recovery
is an Entertaining, Quirky comedy

Also see Richard's reviews of Fêtes de la Nuit and Dublin Carol

Rescue and Recover
Jennifer Dean and Bill Olson
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is presenting the West Coast premiere of Atlanta playwright Steve Murray's Rescue and Recovery. The quirky dark comedy opened in Atlanta in 1999 where it was an immediately hit, running for five months. The only other time the play was seen was a rogue production in Indianapolis in 2001.

Rescue and Recovery is very unpredictable, right from the very beginning of the two hour with intermission production in the small band box theatre. It opens with Cameron (Bill Olson) standing stark naked in front of the audience. We are told he is a doctor of internal medicine and that he and Janie (Jennifer Dean) had the perfect marriage until she found out he was having an affair with a nurse at the hospital. To make matters worse, it was a male nurse named Lyle.

Cameron and Janie then tell the story of the rise and fall of the marriage and Cameron's sexual peccadilloes with men, especially a dense boy-toy type bank teller named Mark Frank (a running joke throughout the play since the name alludes to foreign currency), played by Joseph Barham. Completing this menage à trois are Timothy (Noah Kelly), an extremely fey and pushy guy who is dying of AIDS, and his nerd-like quiet lover Jay (Javier Galito-Cava).

Rescue and Recovery is a sexy comedy about love, lust, loss, lies and letting go. It starts out very slowly with dissertations on sexual practices and historical references. The scene of a Thanksgiving dinner in the first act gets the ball rolling with a lot of sexual inferences among the five characters. Some scenes just don't ring true; however, this is a comedy and almost a farce in that context.

Director Christopher Jenkins has assembled a nice group of actors to play off each other. Jennifer Dean (graduate of Central School of Speech and Drama in London and has appeared in productions at Circle In the Square in New York) is excellent as the lone female in the play. She gives a sharp performance as the ex-wife who is liberal in her thinking. Her second-act portrayal of a woman trying to meet a man is choice. Noel Kelly, in various male roles, is excellent in the quick-flowing scenes.

Bill Olson, also new to NCTC, is very good as the doctor. He has a boyish way about him and reminds me of a young Kevin Bacon. Olson has a good theatrical voice that is almost musical. Javier Galito Cava, who usually plays flamboyant roles, underplays the mousey nerd character brilliantly. As one character says, "he hardly spoke 20 words to me since I met him," yet he is the sly fox by the end of the play. Joseph Barham is very good as the 27-year-old indecisive bank teller Mark, who has nothing on his mind but sex, sex, sex and who repeats constantly that he is an "orphan" who was found on the steps of a Catholic church. He also has a thing about statues of Catholic saints, candles and sexual role-playing games. As Cameron says, "he is a walking contradiction." Cameron and Mark are a good example of opposites attracting.

Rescue and Recovery is full of one-liners, and the conversations between characters are very natural and full of sparking wit. There are subplots that strike the right balance between drollness and drama. The stage is mostly bare, with just small pieces of furniture to set the scenes.

Rescue and Recovery runs through March 6th at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave near Market in San Francisco. For tickets call the NCTC Box Office at 415-861-8972 or online at www.nctcsf.org. Mambo Italiano is currently playing in the large theatre.


Photo: Lois Tema


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


- Richard Connema



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