Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Worse Than Chocolate is a Bittersweet Play
Also see Richard's review of On the Twentieth Century
Worse Than Chocolate showcased at the Exit Theatre before John Fisher of the Theatre Rhinoceros picked up the comedy for the company's second play of this season. Most of the cast from the showcase also came over to this production. Jaeson plays the lead role.
Worse Than Chocolate centers around four overeducated, undersocialized misfits in the word processing department of a San Francisco law firm. Alex (Jaeson Post) is an unhappy person who has watched at least fourteen videos a weekend since her break up with a married heterosexual woman seven months prior. Alex is a confirmed movie buff who likes to quote from movies of the '80s and '90s. Her best friend is Frankie (Liz Ryan), a rowdy, macho, sexually insatiable Irish lesbian who is carrying on with Simone (Maegan Harding), a slender lovely woman whose gender could be questionable. Shelly (Sina Elden), a straight and curious person, and Paul (Jeffrey Hartgraves), a prissy and sardonic gay man, complete the four word processing workers.
Grace (Maryssa Wanlass), a new and flirty attorney, comes into Alex's life and takes a romantic interesting in our hero. Shelly and Paul push the relationship since Alex is still gun shy about starting another relationship. A subplot reveals the ominous machinations of a sneaky supervisor (Leon Acord) who wants to put Microsoft Works into their programs. This would disrupt the happy family who call themselves the Boxcars.
Chocolate is a queer sitcom-style comic romp that is equal parts office satire, tribute to Hollywood trivia and old fashioned love story with a modern transgender twist. It is straightforwardly rendered by a likeable cast. The play is a little thin in spots and the cast speaks in a very rapid machine gun pace, occasionally overstepping their lines with no inflections of emotions. There are references to lesbian speech that escape me, since my knowledge of that world is very limited. However, the women in the audience seemed to get a great kick out of some of the speeches.
The play runs 2 and ½ hours and needs serious trimming down since some of the dialogue is repetitive. Director Jeffrey Hartgraves could use faster pacing between scenes.
The cast is agreeable, especially veteran Irish actress Liz Ryan who has sharp comic timing and comes up with the best zingers. Megan Harding is very good as the svelte Simone with her own secret to share at the end of the comedy. Sina Eiden is excellent as the chatty straight woman and Maryssa Wanlass gives an engaging performance as the love interest of Alex. Jeffrey Hartgraves underplays his role as the prissy queen while Leon Acord plays a very slimy villain. Author Jaeson Post tends to talk too fast and he speeds through his lines. I sometimes heard the voice of Tennessee Williams in his speech patterns.
Worse Than Chocolate runs through November 8 at the Theatre Rhinoceros located at 2926 16th Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.
The next production at Theatre Rhinoceros is the ever popular holiday show, Christmas with the Crawfords, which opens on November 20.