Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Monkey Room": ☼ ☼ BANG

AIDS research is not a frequently-discussed topic in film or on the live stage. There are probably any number of reasons, among them being 1) the subject matter is dry as burnt toast and 2) there are no happy endings -- yet. But playwright Kevin Fisher is a bona fide AIDS researcher as well as a writer, which gives him a unique window to observe what is going on inside the lab.

In "Monkey Room," having its World Premiere at the Magic Theater, the answer seems to be: the same things that are going on in the outside world. Professional jealousy, personal ambition and a drying-up cash flow threaten to scuttle an AIDS research lab's important work, even though four of the monkeys the lab is inoculating with possible AIDS antidotes appear to be coming through the treatment without getting sick.

Lauren Grace, as lead researcher Ava, gives an excellent performance. She is able to layer her character both with hard-driving personal ambition and honest love for her research. What is less clear is what she could possibly see in fellow researcher Zach (Kevin Rolston), who is duplicitous and does not appear to be motivated by anything but watching soccer. He is given to romantic lines like: "You love infectious diseases. You know you do."

Perhaps the problem is in the writing or perhaps it is simply casting, but -- don't want to give anything away here -- the couch scene. Facts don't add up. Needs further research.

Special notice needs to be given to the always-excellent Robert Parsons as the company man, sent to review Ava's research lab and either allow its work to continue or axe it forever. He has had his troubles too, but is the only one who seems to have his head out of the clouds.

In the end, Fisher's subject is an interesting one, and will perhaps evolve into a more entertaining play as time goes by. Right now our interest is piqued by the unique problems science researchers face. As science, we say yes. As theater: perhaps not quite yet.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Monkey Room" one star for the subject matter and another for fine performances by Grace and Parsons. A special Bangle of Praise goes to the Sound Design, led by Sara Huddleston, whose spot-on music accents each scene. Best of all is what plays as the audience files from the theater: "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees.

"Monkey Room" is sponsored by the Magic Theatre / Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Initiative.


"Monkey Room"
Magic Theater, San Francisco
Fort Mason, Building D
Wed.-Sun. $20-$45

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the TV de LCD, I hope you enjoy. The address is A hug.