Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Coronado": ☼ ☼ 1/2 BANG baub

So, you're saying that he...wait a minute, you mean the diamond was...hold on, Gwen and Gina were, stop, whose mother?

Dennis Lehane's "Coronado" is a play that you don't decipher until you're halfway home, and only if you live a good distance from SF Playhouse. On the surface, you've got three different stories taking place in a country bar dominated by a Budweiser sign. First to the stage are the two hot lovers ("I could spread you on a cracker and eat you whole"), soon to be joined by her husband.

Then we meet the more mature couple, one of whom is hot to trot and the other is her shrink...

Finally we run into the father and son who not only despise each other but are about to divulge a nasty little family secret.

Thus endeth Act One. Something is brewing: it's hard to say what. But it doesn't take more than a few minutes into Act Two to realize these three stories are not unrelated, and, in fact, in only a few minutes...well that's all we're going to say about the plot. If you're not sure what happens, ask your wife in the car.

Walking out of the theater, one audience member said: "God! That was so dark!" Well, it is, but it's also a fascinating exercise on playing with time. No one who saw Sean Penn in Lehane's "Mystic River" could be surpised by depressing characters; still, it has to be said that each of the nine actors in the cast are damned to Hell before they leave the green room. Nobody deserves to be saved; that anyone survives by the final curtain is probably only because Lehane ran out of printer paper.

Especially noteworthy in the cast are Chad Deverman as young Bobby, who plays him with a vulnerable scowl; Stacy Ross as older Gina, world-weary but with a reason, as we come to find out; and Will Springhorn, Junior, who changes from callow recipient of sexual favors to someone whose nastiness almost starts to make sense. Too bad his character ends up in the bottom of the, well, you know.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ 1/2 BANG baub

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Coronado" one entire star for not spoon feeding the audience, even when a little spoon or a tiny straw poking up out of the muck might have been helpful; one star for the way director Susi Damilano has managed to integrate three complex stories on a small stage; and an extra half star for the one truism voiced by author Lehane in the mouth of older Gina: "Without sacrifice, all we have is infatuation." Think about that one for a second.

One Bangle of Praise is awarded for the convincing way Springhorn turns to young Gina and says "Let's Kill Him." It sounds reasonable to us too. There is one Bauble of Despair also: how in the world does Bobby convince his bad-ass Papa to climb into the grave, holding nothing other than a knife the size of a Swiss Army Hangnail Clipper?

Two and a half stars BANG baub for "Coronado," and if it were a series we'd tune in for the next episode.

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tedrick said...

It was good meeting you at Coronado the other night. I enjoy your review style; it's refreshing and honest.

My review of Coronado is copy edits right now. It should run tomorrow.

I saw Tragedy: a tragedy as well. My review is here:

I'll send you a link to Coronado when it posts.


DAK said...

Hi Ted. Did you read Bob Hurwitt's review in the Saturday Chron? I think I maybe enjoyed the play more than you but less than he did. I think SF Playhouse is one of the best little theaters we've got going right now.