The San Francisco Playhouse which opened their 7th Season did so with an intelligent, creative and highly enjoyable West Coast Premiere of David Greenspan’s She Stoops to Comedy.
David Greenspan’s work’s are infrequently performed in the Bay Area for a number of reasons: not accessible enough, scares subscribers, etc. Which is why I was delighted to see a theatre take a risk with this material. In 2008, Thick Description produced another David Greenspan play, Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain which delighted some and offended others.
When: November 17th, 2009 through January 9th, 2010
Where: San Francisco Playhouse
I applaud the efforts of the San Francisco Playhouse in taking this risk during the holiday season while other, more financially robust theatres continue to hide behind their tired, corpulent cash cows. It pleases me greatly to report that this venture pays off tremendously – as an artistic undertaking. I won’t speculate whether She Stoops to Comedy will replace A Christmas Carol as a box office alternative.
The play’s convention is a concoction of Brecht, Shakespeare and Feydeau. Veteran actress, Alexandra Page (Liam Vincent), attempts to reconquer her ex-girlfriend (Sally Clawson) who has been recently cast in a high concept production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Alexandra auditions as a man, convincing her director (Cole Alexander Smith) that she is in fact, a he. Alexandra’s best friend, Kay (Amy Resnick), an archeologist cum lighting designer is added into the mix when her ex-lover, Jayne (played also by Amy Resnik) is also cast in the same production. Add to this a predatory character actor (Scott Capurro) and you have enough material for twice the eighty minutes running time.
Mr. Vincent gives a particularly outstanding performance capturing the grace and femininity of his character while dispensing any heavy-handed impulse to over articulate his portrayal of a woman. Amy Resnick’s double casting would bury an actress of less ability, but in the hands of this nimble and capable performer, she switches so completely that I am concerned she may suffer from a mild case of dissociative disorder. (Bad for her, great for the audience!) Local comedian, now an international presence, Scott Capurro, serves up one of the most revelatory and poignant performances I’ve seen in years.
For those fearing a cross dressing superficial spoof on par with the television show Bosom Buddies, this is where Greenspan takes us to surprising and wonderful places. These characters are flesh and blood and feel deeply the effects of their choices. Director Mark Rucker’s sage and forthright direction allows the play to yield these moments of gravity. Also, by not cowering to dull and overplayed convention such as making Mr. Vincent don drag at any point, Greenspan and Rucker discard the childish artifice of underestimating the viewer; we get it, it’s a man playing a woman. From that point, we are free to enjoy what is really at stake and not concern ourselves with banal questions that have nothing to do with the characters, their drama and the overall humor. This is not about drag, it is about love and to what ends we will journey to bask in its joy.