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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Marcus Lloyd's Dead Certain is a Taut 90-Minute Thriller

Also see Richard's reviews of Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Secret Garden

British playwright Marcus Lloyd's Dead Certain has returned to San Francisco and is now playing at the Off-Market Theatre for an open ended run. This suspenseful drama was first produced in England in 1999 and seen at the Invisible Theatre in Tucson in 2005. San Francisco saw the play at the Next Stage in 2005 and then it moved to Actors Theatre where it received positive reviews. Other small theatres throughout this country have presented the play with great success.

Dead Curtain is a taut and twisty two-person drama which involves a psychological cat and mouse game between Elizabeth Bartlett (Diana Brown), a theater-obsessed former dancer in a wheelchair, and Michael Boyd (Andrey Esterlis), an unemployed actor. It strongly reminded me of Sleuth. I don't want give out much of the plot since it would spoil much of the pleasure to be had as the play unfolds. Elizabeth has hired a handsome young unemployed actor to come to her apartment and read through a play she has written. She announces to the actor that the play is about freedom, empowerment and identity; these three themes come into play in their cat and mouse game. One soon gets the feeling that she knows a lot about the unemployed actor's past life. The script is complex with many twists and turns to keep the audience on their toes. Elizabeth plays the puppetmaster, keeping the actor guessing as to what is going on in her mind. The ending I won't reveal.

Andrey Esterlis (founder of Expression Productions and trained in theatre in both Russia and United States) is excellent as Michael. He has a slight accent that reminds me of Paul Reiser. His transition of self-assurance at the beginning of the play to almost whimpering at the end is beautifully played. Diana Brown (appeared in both New York and San Francisco in this play) gives a believable performance as Elizabeth. She successfully unifies all of the disparate aspects of the character while sitting in a wheelchair.

Stacy Marshall has effectively designed a theatrelover's living room in the small space of the bandbox theatre. Audrey Esterlis also directed the one-act play and keeps the confrontations between the characters fascinating. If you like mind games like Sleuth or Deathtrap this is a drama for you.

Dead Certain has an open ended run at the Off Market Theatre, 965 Mission Street, San Francisco just one block from the new Bloomingdale's store. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or go to www.deadcertain.net.


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

- Richard Connema



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