Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

San Francisco Playhouse
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of It Can't Happen Here, The Brothers Size, Pride and Prejudice, the Musical, and Yellow Face

Brian Dykstra and Rod Gnapp
Photo by Jessica Palopoli
San Francisco Playhouse begins its fourteenth season with the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Seared, which was commissioned by the company. Rebeck has written many entertaining plays, including Mauritius and The Butterfly Collection. She was the creator of the NBC musical drama "Smash" and has written for other television shows like "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "NYPD Blue."

Seared would make a terrific television series and that's not a bad thing. Watching the two-hour production I kept thinking of the films Big Night and Burnt and even the recent AMC series "Feed the Beast," but without the gangsters.

This new play explores the delicate balance between the ingenious spirit of a chef and navigating the success of a restaurant. Chef Harry (Brian Dykstra) and co-owner Mike (Rod Gnapp) have owned an eight table jewel box Brooklyn restaurant for two and half years. A reviewer comes into the restaurant and orders the scallop entrée. He is smitten with Harry's extraordinary scallops and the dish earns a "best bet" mention in New York Magazine. Suddenly, customers are flooding the restaurant to order the scallops. But this culinary genius does not want to cook scallops again. Of course Mike is steamed because the customers are demanding the now famous dish, and the sales would help their financial problems, but Harry pigheadedly refuses to cook them.

To make matters worse, Mike hires a consultant, Emily (Alex Sunderhaus), and she thinks about new knives and fixtures and sidewalk expansion. Harry immediately dislikes her. Rodney, a waiter at the restaurant, sees that it's going to be bumpy road.

Theresa Rebeck's dialogue is sparking and clever, and the four-member cast is terrific, with each giving a perfect performance, thanks to director Margaret Perry. New York actor Brian Dykstra is fabulous in the role of Chef Harry, who says things like "money is fabrication" since he believes in the artistic side of food and not the commercial side. He even makes assertions that "people suck but food doesn't." He is not a pleasant person as is the case with so many master chefs.

Rod Gnapp gives an outstanding performance as Mike, who is looking to finally make money out of this eatery. His confrontations with Harry are awesome. Larry Powell as Rodney the waiter skillfully adds comic relief to the proceedings. As Emily, Alex Sunderhaus adds an effervescent and peppy performance to the comedy drama.

Scenic designer Bill English has devised a fully operational, industrial kitchen with a richly stocked food pantry and steaming pots. Costumes by Tatjana Genser are authentic for restaurant employees. Margaret Perry's direction is spot on.

Seared runs through November 12, 2016, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, 2nd floor of the Kensington Park Hotel, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or Coming up next is Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joe Masteroff's She Loves Me opening November 30th.