We have seen lots of Charlie Varon shows through the years. (2016 is his 25th year doing spoken word at the Marsh.) His current trilogy, dealing with issues of aging and taken from interviews at a convalescent home in San Francisco, has a great deal of promise, but we were not knocked over by last year's first installment, called "Feisty Old Jew."
So it is with great pleasure that we can announce that "Second Time Around," a duet for cello and storyteller, performed with cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, is the best Charlie Varon show we have seen in years. The music takes awhile to get going, but when it does Varon can play off the emotion of the cello and Jeanrenaud can riff along with Varon's tale. This is in many ways a perfect match.
As always with Charlie Varon, we have favorite lines. We love his description of his 92-year-old hero Ben Rosenau as "An astronaut with his helmet of white hair." Ben was a bomber pilot in World War II and his memories are the centerpiece of this story. We might prefer that we didn't see the end of the Lou Coombs story coming from so far away, but it is touching nonetheless.
Peter and the Wolf this is not. And it is not a cello concerto, it is a story embellished with music. The cello adds texture to Varon's voice and Varon gives emotion to her themes. Well done, Charlie Varon and Joan Jeanrenaud.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Second Time Around" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. Charlie and Joan earn one star each, director David Ford another. The BANGLE is for the concept itself. Spoken word can be tiresome, and so can a solo musician. As Ben says, it's all about human connection. Charlie Varon and Joan Jeanrenaud have it and allow us to share along with them.
Joan Jeanrenaud and Charlie Varon: "Second Time Around"
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Through April 17
$30-$45, sliding scale