Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Adam Bock's The Typographer's Dream
The Encore Theatre Company is presenting the West Coast premiere of Adam Bock's The Typographer's Dream at the Thick House through February 27th. Who would have thought that a panel discussion of three persons whose occupations are typographer (Aimee Guillot), geographer (Jamie Jones) and stenographer (Michael Shipley) discussing their professions would be interesting. Adam West has written a 75-minute, no-intermission play that is hilarious, bracing and very enlightening. The dialogue is clever and the confrontation between the characters is stimulating, especially toward the end of the comedy.
Typographer's Dream premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2003 and played the Menier Theatre in London where it received thumbs up reviews. New York saw an Off-Broadway production in 2003 and it also received excellent reviews.
Typographer's Dream's opening is very clever, as the geographer and stenographer come through the theatre's entrance door as if coming from the outside. The house lights are fully on as we watch them prepare to give their lecture and wait for the third person, the typographer. They fuss and just look at the audience and then at the door, and you begin to wonder if the third party is going to show up. She comes rushing in, throwing her appeal on the floor. One can see she is a very impulsive woman.
Adam's signature syncopation provides the rhythm for this hilarious story of borders, letters, fonts and friendships. It is a captivating look at this much neglected world of work. There is a very excellent scene toward the end of the production involving the stenographer's home life with his partner Bob (not seen) and a confrontation with friend Lisa (played by Jamie Jones) over the use of "you" instead of "I" in the speech pattern. That war of words casts spells over Lisa and another of Dave's friends played by Aimee Guillot.
All three performers are outstanding. Jamie Jones almost steals the show as the exasperating geographer. She is like a brow-beating teacher you might have had in grade school. She is animated, almost to the point of going overboard, declaring that geography is a science and "not a social science." She firmly believes that the world would be better off without people constantly changing borders and mucking up the planet.
Michael Shipley plays the stenographer, who would rather be called a "court reporter," with a naïve boyish charm about him. His speech rhythms show the childish way in which he talks about his job. It's a wonderful performance.
Aimee Guillot is the most enigmatic character; most of her conversations are about the visionary way of letters on paper and the joy of the various fonts that she has produced. She is bitter that the unprincipled world of advertising has made these wonderful letters obtuse. Her vision of an idealistic world is doomed to failure because typography is now a thing of the past. The last sentence of the play, as she expounds on just having just seen a 17th century book that was a pure delight, shows how the world has changed for the worst in her estimation.
Under Anne Kauffman's superb direction, all three actors have blossomed to give first rate performances. Costumes by Marilyn Yu-Li are right to the point, especially Annalise the geographer's bright red suit; the sloppy appearance of Margaret the typographer; and the college grey sweater, grey shirt and grey tie of the natty outfit of Dave. The stage is bare with the exception of a long table where the characters sit facing the audience. Lines of graphic architecture outline on the floor.
The Typographer's Dream plays through February 27 at the Thick House, 1695 18th Street between Arkansas and Deharo, San Francisco, Ca. For tickets call 415-821-4849 or visit www.encorethearecompany.org.