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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Thought Provoking Production of
Steven Dietz's Fiction

Also see Richard's reviews of Rust and One-Man Star Wars Trilogy

Fiction
Michael Medici and Joyce Henderson
San Francisco has a new theatre company aptly called Off Broadway West Theatre Company. Their mission is to promote and encourage the continuing development of theatre in San Francisco. They are committed to producing a minimum of one play per season that has been on Broadway and/or Off-Broadway, thus connecting the East to the West. The company was formed last year by a group with a collective professional theatre experience of over 100 years.

Off Broadway West's first presentation is Steven Dietz's stimulating jigsaw puzzle story Fiction, with three excellent actors confronting each other in the drama filled with thought-provoking monologues. Steven Dietz is well known as the writer of cutting edge dramas outside of New York. He has written 25 plays, all of them produced, making him one of the most watched regional playwrights. This production was presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre New York in 2004. Since then it has played in regional areas including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Diego.

Fiction centers around Linda (Joyce Henderson) and Michael (Michael Medici), two writers who flourish arguments about literary and popular culture. Linda has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and given only a few weeks to live. Each has prolific private diaries of their lives, and these diaries soon become a catalyst of the drama.

Linda tells her husband that he can read her journals when she is gone. However, in return, she wants to read Michael's journals now, since she has a limited time to live. Michael is uncomfortable with her request but he finally gives in. We find out why the husband is uncomfortable, since his journals reveal his obsessive infatuation for many years with Abby (Jennifer Bareilles), a young woman that he once met at a writer's colony. The relationship is played out before us as Linda reads the messy details. She is heartbroken as she reads, and Michael and Abby play their scenes on the left side of the small band box stage.

The word "fiction" soon comes into the plot and the audience begins to wonder when Abby comes to visit, whether the diary entries are true, or could they just be in husband's mind as fiction. We know that the husband is a hack writer who has had a best seller. Director Richard Harder turns the audience around several blind corners and you really don't know what is fact and what is fiction. This makes for vivacious theatre, even with the surprise ending.

Joyce Henderson (returns to the Bay Area after being artistic director of Chico's Shakespeare in the Park) is very convincing as Lucy. She gives a smart and complex performance. Michael Medici (A Delicate Balance, Dirty Story, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) is excellent as Michael. Both work well together which makes the give and take confrontations very real. Jennifer Bareilles (Beyond Therapy) gives a compelling performance as the other woman, Abby.

Director Richard Harder keeps the show entertaining from moment to moment in this well-groomed two-hour with intermission comedy drama. It is the kind of production that is likely to be prized by people who love first class acting and erudite dialogue.

Fiction is plays at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco Thursday through Saturdays through March 31st. Their next production will be Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire which will open in the summer. For tickets please go to 800-838-3006 or visit www.offbroadwaywest.org.


Photo: Nick Shoob


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

- Richard Connema



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