Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Sexy Production of The Cable Car Nymphomaniac
The mission of San Francisco's new theatre company, Fogg Theatre, is to create high quality, original, and locally relevant musical theatre in the Bay Area. Their first musical is Tony Asaro's The Cable Car Nymphomaniac with a book by Kirsten Guenther based on a true story that could happen only in San Francisco. In 1964, ex-dance instructor Gloria Sykes hit her head on a pole when the cable car she was riding lurched. She sued SF Muni claiming it turned her into a nymphomaniac. She claimed it forced her to have sex with more than 100 men. Four years later the jury awarded her half a million dollars.
Before you say, "this must be a camp musical," let me state there is a little bit of camp but it's more of a Next to Normal type musical. It takes a hard and hilarious look at gender roles. The Cable Car Nymphomaniac is the story of Bryce (Courtney Merrell) and Bruce (David Naughton), the attorney for Gloria Sykes. Bryce is frustrated by her shortcomings as a housewife and her inability to conceive a child, which is not really her fault since her husband is somewhat standoffish about having sex with her. Bryce becomes fascinated with the story of Gloria Sykes and finds out just what a nymphomaniac is when she makes friends with her husband's pot smoking, feminist legal intern Esther (Carey McCray). She finds a kind of freedom at the end.
Tony Asaro's excellent score is mostly lively, running from hard rock to doo-wop to discord. Somehow, I am reminded of the style of writing of William Finn or Tim Kitt. Asaro also wrote the surprisingly bright and sometimes spicy lyrics.
The seven member cast give terrific performances in this almost two hour no intermission musical. David Naughton as Bruce and Courtney Merrell as Bryce are excellent, with pitch perfect voices. Carey McCray gives a convincing performance as Esther. Steven Ennis, Hayley Lovgren, and Alex Rodriguez play various roles beautifully.
Outstanding is Rinabeth Apostol as Gloria. She is more a dream figure and sometimes looks like Marilyn Monroe. She has mellifluous vocal cords. Supporting effectively is Robert Michael Moreno at the keyboard and his four musical partners. Director Terry Berliner and scenic designer Jeff Rowlings do fine work within the small space they are given. Jeff Rowlings turns three cable car images and four wooden benches into many stage designs. Terry Berliner's direction is sharp and fast paced. She also choreographed the musical, which is especially notable in the quirky tango-less dance and when comical angels flap their wings.
The Cable Car Nymphomaniac runs at Z Space, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco through January 31, 2015. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit www.foggtheatre.org