Monday, July 22, 2013

Don Reed: "Can You Dig It?" ☼ ☼ ☼

In his new show, "Can You Dig It?" Don Reed takes us back to East Oakland where he grew up. In his earlier show "East Fourteenth Street," we met his Mom, his Dad, his brother, sister, two stepbrothers and his father's crazy friends (including the amazing Trout Mouth). Now, we get to meet them again, but in an earlier time period, when his mom and dad were still married and living together. Since this makes "Can You Dig It" a prequel, Reed must make sure people who are not familiar with him are laughing right along with his fans who already know these characters well. He pulls it off. The characters he has created and Reed's ability for physical comedy are funny enough that we are quite happy to say hello to them all again.

But "Can You Dig it?" has a little more angst to it. We feel the pain of his father watching Martin Luther King's assassination on TV (great choice of Sam Cooke music here). We see that his Dad was a pretty decent pimp, but also understand why his mom had to get away. It's easy to see why his mom took up with his Jehovah's Witnesses stepdad. We already know how that turned out for little Donnie because going door-to-door and not celebrating Christmas was a central theme in "East Fourteenth Street."

The stutter and nervous tics that Donnie had as a child are eclipsed only by those of his friend Waddell, who also jumps up and down before he talks. We love Waddell and Donnie together. They could have their own sit-com, with Double Dutch Tony as their enforcer and Trout Mouth as cultural attaché.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Can You Dig It?" Three Stars. It is a very funny show. But we would rate it higher if he gave us a little more. Don Reed can do amazing things with his face but he creates bits that leave us hanging.  What happened in the talent contest? Who won? What did he say to his dad when MLK died? When he and his mom got close toward the end of her life, what did they talk about?  Why did they go shopping so much? The hysterical bit when he and his younger brother are shacked up in a motel with two girls -- how did that end? And when he talks, as a postscript, about what happened in real life to these characters, so many appear to be dead. These were young people. How did that happen?

Which is to say we really love Don Reed's shows. He makes us laugh while he is setting us up for something deeper. When he wants to go there we'll be happy to come along too.

PARKING ALERT: They have steeply raised the price of the nearby New Mission Bartlett Garage. It is no longer an inexpensive option. 

Don Reed: "Can You Dig It?
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
$15-$35 sliding scale
Saturday and Sunday through August 25

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