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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Mat Smart's The Hopper Collection is Intriguing Drama

The Hopper Collection
Zac Jaffee and Julia Brothers
The Magic Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Mat Smart's The Hopper Collection. This 80-minute, stylish drama reminds me of Edward Albee's Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. There is the bickering older couple Marjorie (Julia Brothers) and Daniel (Andy Murray) and two young visitors Edward (Zac Jaffee) and Sarah (Anna Bullard).  Instead of the older couple arguing about a child, they squabble over a famous painting of Edward Hopper called "Summer's Evening" (we never see the painting). Mat Smart recently graduated from UC San Diego and this is his first major work. The Magic Theatre has given him a superb production with brilliant acting and an eye-catching detailed set of a rich redwood-paneled living room. 

Marjorie borders on neurotic obsession with the painting since her whole life has centered on a two-minute meeting with the artist during her teenage years.  She has a strong love/hate relationship with her husband Daniel who purchased the painting for her. Daniel is a former prize fighter who has suffered several broken noses in the ring.  He has turned successful businessman but still likes to shadow box.  

Marjorie and Daniel live in separate wings of their large, beautifully decorated house; they occasionally meet in the room where the painting is hanging.  When these two get together you think it is Martha and George all over again. Daniel seems to still love his wife even when she keeps calls him a "brute."  She talks about killing him by putting arsenic in a drink she has prepared.

Young student Edward, who has a brain tumor and only three months to live, is invited to look at the famous painting. He needs to see the painting because when his girfriend Sarah left him two years prior, she sent him a mysterious post card, unsigned, which showed the painting. He recognized her handwriting, found her telephone number and they are to meet that night in the living room where the painting is displayed.  A young art student named Sarah arrives but is this the real Sarah or another young lass he has just met several days before this meeting? 

Julia Brothers gives a tour de force performance, constantly changing personalities. She is given to over-the-top fits, intense phantasms and frenzied pill popping. Andy Murray's portrayal of Daniel is outstanding.  He shows his character's passion for his wife and what he will do to regain the love of this woman. 

Zac Jaffee and Anna Bullard give good performances of their youthful cravings and bewilderment as the visiting couple. Zac is particularly good when expressing his desires to be a first in his life before he leaves this earth. He even wants ex-prize fighter Daniel to box with him so he can experience this emotion for the first time.

The Hopper Collection is full of dialogue that is bright, droll and full of unpredicted turns. Mat Smart, who has the Albee touch when it comes to dialogue, is on the road to being a gifted playwright.

Erik Flatmo's spacious set looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright home of redwood paneling.  There are broad horizontal windows and hexagonal tiles.  It is stunning. Sound designer Yvette Janine Jackson has added jazzy Cole Porter tunes for changes of scenes. Chris Smith has directed an original, thought provoking and moving production. The play has been picked up by Boston's Huntington Theatre to be presented in spring of 2006.

The Hopper Collection run has been extended through December 31 at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.  For tickets call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.


Photo: Bill Faulkner


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

- Richard Connema



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