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Nothing is funnier than awkward dates. Well, that is, as long as you’re not a participant. With Becky Shaw to watch, however, is to revel in a calamity of co-dependence, ethics, and porn. It’s mostly guilt free, and at the opening night at SF Playhouse it reminded me perhaps of the last (only?) good reason to be married: so I don’t need to play the dating game.
Love is a mutually beneficial bargain
Gina Gionfreddo received a 2009 Pulitzer nomination for this play, and it’s easy to see why with the crackling dialog and layered relationships. Her characters are anything but black and white. They’re also entirely unlikable. Becky Shaw (Lauren English) is the hanger-on who can’t take no for an answer, and confuses sex with love. Max (Brian Robert Burns) is a calculating schemer with questionable ethics, trying to help his mother (Lorri Holt) manage the estate. His sister, Suzanna (Liz Sklar), is infatuated with grief. And new beau Andrew (Lee Dolson) is a super-soft, overly empathetic slacker.
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Welcome to the island of misfit (and cynical) toys
Ultimately, each is driven by their stubborn refusal to be, well, sane. High wattage vocals conspire to push the whine factor a bit too often for my liking, but in each of these personalities we can see dark slivers of ourselves.
Look for another whiz-bang set by artistic director by Bill English. Once again, it boggles the mind what can be done in small spaces.
Brownie points for a Nightmare on Elm Street 3 reference (“Where’s the bourbon, bitch”) and characters who love a glass or two of wine; a little booze, after all, is a dating prerequisite.
SPECIAL: Backstage at SF Playhouse with Susi Damilano
3 out of 5 stars (Recommended)
SF Playhouse, San Francisco
Directed by Amy Glazer
Starring Lauren English, Arwen Anderson, Brian Robert Burns, Lee Dolson, Lorri Holt and Liz Sklar
by Gina Gionfriddo
through March 10th