Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco


The Magic Theatre is presenting the world premier of Barry Gifford's Play Wyoming. Sometimes this prestigious group presents plays that go on to play Off Broadway. However, in this case I doubt if this production would play on a New York stage. Barry Gifford is better known as a novelist and a screenplay writer, and it is also interesting to note that "Wyoming" is being made into a novel. His screenplays include the quirky Lost Highway for David Lynch and On The Road for Francis Coppola.

Wyoming is a conversation between a mother and her bright 13 year old son, and that is the complete cast of the production. The play follows the woman and her son as they journey together by car through the southern and Midwestern United States in the mid to late 1950's, while they talk about everything from alligator wrestling to divorce.

They talk about the father who is a member of a mob in Chicago and Havana. They bounce from relative to relative, staying along the way in cheap motels. They are characterized more by routine than adventure. They sing to the radio, swap stories about some the odd characters that The father knows.

Time does not matter in this play. At first it is very confusing if this is just one road trip but as the 90 minute play continues, you find out this is series of trips. The play is low keyed and this is the play's greatest weakness. Nothing ever happens to keep the play moving. The play's title Wyoming relates not to the state but a state of mind. The boy imagines that someday he will be settled down living with his mother and a dog in Wyoming.

Alex Brightman, a young actor with natural tendencies in the acting track, plays the 13-year-old boy. He exhibits an impressive command of a big part He's a very articulate actor, and he catches the curiosity of the young boy.

I wish I could say the same about Anne Darragh who plays the mother. She has a nasal twinge voice that becomes irritating after a while. Amy Glazer's direction is crisp and it never strikes a false note. She has given great detail to this production. The set is minimalist with the car interior at the center of the stage and a long chalk highway running from the back of the car to the back of the set. Lighting is excellent, bathing the characters in colors from harsh red to deep blue, in shades that suggest everything from a cheap motel to a sudden rainstorm.

This play would be better on the screen with other characters thrown Into the plot. As for a stage production it needs a lot of work to keep the audience interested in the characters. It runs until April 30, 2000

Magic Theatre,
Building D,
FortMason Center,
San Francsico,
Phone No. (415) 441-8822.
Tickets are $25-$30.


- Richard Connema

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