Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Goldfish": ☼ ☼ ☼ PLUS BANG BANG

Albert (Andrew Pastides) is about to leave home for college, but it's not that easy. His dad Leo (Rod Gnapp) has a large gambling habit and is clearly incapable of caring for himself, and though Albert has attempted to methodically plan out everything Leo might need during Albert's absence, both father and son know there's going to be trouble.

Plus -- Albert is not a rich kid, like the others he envisions attending his un-named Northeastern university. He is convinced he's not going to fit in, and his Dad's gambling habit is only one of many reasons.

At the same time, Lucy (Anna Bullard) is also a freshman at the college, and she has become infatuated with Albert, who clearly has never had a girl friend before.

Lucy's mother, Margaret (Patricia Hodges), is world weary and drinks too much. Their pristine living room and plush sofa are a total contrast to Albert and Leo's linoleum kitchen table back home.

Loretta Greco's direction is fast, the scenes change completely and often (hats off to the stage crew!), playwright John Kolvenbach's dialog is both funny and alarming, and each character is flawed while also filled with promise. That "Goldfish" is a prequel to "Mrs. Whitney," which is playing in repertory with "Goldfish" and premieres in two weeks, fills we reviewers with the kind of anticipation we're not supposed to have: it's like we're watching a really good soap.

"Goldfish" is very good and stands alone. If "Mrs. Whitney" measures up, the Magic has uncovered a pair of aces.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards "Goldfish" Three Stars with a big PLUS and two BANGLES OF PRAISE. The PLUS is granted as we wait for "Mrs. Whitney" -- the only possible downside of "Goldfish" is that it flies by so quickly and we are left wanting more. "Mrs. Whitney" may jump both of these shows to Four Stars.

The first BANGLE of PRAISE is for Michael Locher's sets -- the way they pull out the sofa with Mrs. Whitney lying on it, then lock it back down to become Leo's kitchen: priceless.

The second BANGLE has to go to Lucy's mother's fantastically self-absorbed musing, while staring at her daughter: "Look at you. I am flabbergasted by how beautiful I used to be."

You go, Mrs. Whitney. I wait for you to knock my socks off in two weeks.

Magic Theatre
Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
Through November 8

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