Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

I and You and
Emily Bergl at Society Cabaret

Also see Jeanie's review of Next Fall and Patrick's review of Gypsy

A Creative Production of Lauren Gunderson's I and You

Jessica Lynn Carroll and
Devion McArthur

Photo by Ed Smith
Local playwright Lauren Gunderson is becoming very popular in the Bay Area. She has two world premieres opening recently, The Taming and I and You for Marin Theatre Company. She will have two more world premieres in 2014 at the San Francisco Playhouse and TheatreWorks.

I and You is a production everyone will talk about, with a dramatic twist ending that I won't disclose. The 85-minute production will be going to Maryland and Indiana as a National New Play Network rolling world premiere. At present the production seems like a play in progress; the two characters need to be fleshed out.

The drama centers around cantankerous, chronically ill high school student Caroline (Jessica Lynn Carroll), who has kept to her bed for a long time, and even-tempered high school basketball star Anthony (Devion McArthur). Anthony just shows up in Caroline's bedroom one fine day. He says her mother opened the door downstairs and told him to just go on up to her bedroom. Caroline has not the faintest idea who this guy is. Anthony tells her he has been assigned to partner with her on a project for an American literature class about a Walt Whitman poem she has not read. Even though the playwright has skillfully written adolescent dialogue these two seem so mismatched that you wonder what they have in common.

Caroline is so insufferable that it takes a while to warm up to her, while Anthony is a real sweetheart and easy to like. However, you do begin to like Caroline when she learns to share Anthony's unusually enthusiastic passion for Whitman's "Song of Myself." There are some captivating moments in this play, but it does spin its wheels a lot. The dramatic twist in the story would be more effective if the audience understood just what is going with these two characters. There are clues, but they are hard to find.

Jessica Lynn Carroll (SFBATCC nominee last year for Ragtime at Foothill) gives a convincing performance as Caroline. She is bursting with energy in many of the scenes which makes one wonder what kind of illness has Caroline an invalid. With these occasional bursts of energy she suddenly gets exhausted and ill-tempered. Devion McArthur (Much Ado About Nothing with Annapolis Shakespeare Company) is charming as the nerdy and sensitive Anthony in both his susceptible misperception and his resoluteness.

Sarah Rasmussen's direction is smooth and entertaining. Will McCandless' sound design is interesting, especially the periodic beep of a smoke alarm. Michael Locher's set is an excellent detailed teenage girl's bedroom, with walls cluttered with pages torn from magazines, collages, stuffed animals and photo strips.

I and You runs through November 3rd at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave. Mill Valley. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit Coming up next is Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol opening on November 21st

The Vivacious Emily Bergl at Society Cabaret

That ball of fire Emily Bergl returned to San Francisco in October to play at the city's newest showplace, Society Cabaret in the Hotel Rex. Emily Bergl is a glowing personality with a vibrant voice, a cheeky bounce, and great comic skill. She does everything, even acting out songs, such as her rendition of Nöel Coward's "Mad About the Boy" and the depression era "Ten Cents a Dance." Emily has a voice reminiscent of the Welsh actress Glynis Johns mixed with a Betty Boop chirp. Reviewers have compared her to Jean Harlow and I am inclined to agree with that.

The 32-year-old artist is probably best known for her role as Carrie in the movie The Rage: Carrie 2 or as housewife Beth Young in the TV series "Desperate Housewives." She also had a reoccurring role on TNT's "Southland" and will be appearing in next season's "Shameless" on Showtime. Emily also recently appeared on Broadway as Mae in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Her new cabaret show is called Kidding on the Square and features mostly songs of the 1930s. During her one hour and ten minute gig she brashly flirted with the audience, shimmied wildly about the stage, and even removed some layers of clothing just like a showgirl of the '30s. She was excellent singing like Judy Garland on "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," starting out slowly and then belting out the last part of the song.

The artist became Edith Piaf when singing "Sympathique" in relaxed French, and then morphed into Marlene Dietrich singing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" based on the Andrews Sisters hit. She displayed an upset, faltering character trying to come to grips with pain on the Roy Orbison song "Crying." She also came off the stage to trifle with members of the audience on "Ain't Misbehavin'." The singer gave a sensual rendition of "Peel Me a Grape" while sitting on the piano and ended her session with a heartfelt rendition of "Is That All There Is?"

The show featured G. Scott Lacy, on piano, who also sang with her on several songs.

For upcoming events to this new cabaret go to

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

- Richard Connema

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