Friday, April 30, 2010

"A Night of Funny Firsts!": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG BANG

Being a reviewer means we have lows -- the overhyped, overwritten and underacted. Thankfully, 'Lestat' doesn't come along often. On the other side of the ledger, our highs are many in a town bubbling over with great theater. We love at least part of almost every show we see.

Then come the surprises, that really original piece of theater that springs up like a winning lottery ticket from an unexpected source. We saw one of these beauties last night, a jewel tucked inside an excellent show featuring the work of comedienne Cynthia Brinkman. Brinkman's 'Evolution of a Kiss' opens the program, followed by two short plays directed by Brinkman and written by Seattle's Wayne Rawley.

'Evolution of a Kiss' is the story of three generations of women -- Brinkman found journals from her grandmother and mother and also used her own, to describe that wonderful moment when a girl is kissed for the first time. She portrays all three women and her voices and accents are terrific. The women in the audience swooned.

But then Act Two came along, and the first of Rawley's two shorts: "Controlling Interest." This reviewer, along with the rest of the audience, caught a serious case of Runaway Funnybone with a side order of Belly Laughitis. The premise is that four men, dressed in suits, carrying around cell phones and behaving for all the world like stock brokers, are actually eight years old. The important issues they are discussing include the memo about no longer eating their boogers. This becomes very important later on when Jack (Matt Gunnison), their leader, brings up his next agenda item, which is: "perhaps we should think about liking girls."

The girls have sent two representatives to the office, and from the moment Bethany (Maria Leigh) and Ashley (Holly Silk) hit the stage we realize it's all over for the boys. "Our price is your undivided attention for the rest of your lives," says Bethany, and you and she know she has already closed this deal.

The show is not only novel and funny but very well acted. How sad it is only a short.

The second Rawley play "Happiness is Like a Beautiful, Bright, Shiny Red Apple," featuring the same ensemble of actors, is also excellent but with a more traditional premise: shy boy meets shy girl.

The show has a very short run -- by the time you read this there will probably be only one performance left, on May 2. If you can, run down to Footloose Studios in the Mission for an inexpensive and innovative night of laughter.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "A Night of Funny Firsts!" three stars with two BANGLES of PRAISE. Both the BANGLES are for "Controlling Interest" -- Brinkman's direction is perfect and the premise is just too cool for school. The rest of the program is excellent too. No surprise for you, though -- we've ruined that for you.

"A Night of Funny Firsts!"
Shotwell Studios
3252-A 19th Street, Sam Francisco
Through May 1

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