Monday, January 16, 2012

"Food Stories: Pleasure is Pleasure" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Terrific theater is terrific theater. The extra dimension you get with Word For Word productions is fun. In advance you know they are going to act out a short story or two by authors you know, including all the "he-said-she-said"s. You wonder just how they're going to stage their theatric approach to these literary gems.

The current production is called Food Stories: "Pleasure is Pleasure," and features stories by T.C. Boyle ("Sorry, Fugu") and Alice McDermott ("Enough"). "Sorry Fugu" goes first, and is longer and funnier, but "Enough," which plays after intermission, will stick to your ribs for days.

Everyone is a foodie in our town, and some of us are even critics, so the travails of Chef Albert in T.C. Boyle's story will seem familiar to us. Dreaded restaurant critic Willa Frank, chic, bitter and in love with her own critical adjectives, is able to wreck a restaurant's reputation with a single column. She is coming for her third and final dinner and, in her first two visits, has been singularly unimpressed with all of Albert's efforts to woo her favor. If an audience has ever rooted for an underdog, we are doing so now.

Soren Oliver is a brilliant, oversized Albert, but if he is the main course his side dishes are also fabulous: Molly Benson as Willa (and also the zonked-out Torrey), Gendell Hernandez in many roles, principally Willa's deadened dinner partner The Palate, Rudy Guerrero as the Fabulous Eduardo the waiter, and the wonderful Delia MacDougall whose Marie in "Fugu" will only be topped by her Young Woman in "Enough."

Intermission comes, and you are going to be hungry. Just sayin'.

We get Pat Silver as Older Woman in Alice McDermott's "Enough." This story could be titled The Saga of the Sofa. MacDougall and Silver are able to chart the entire life of a singularly interesting Irish woman -- love, loss, and of course her "troubles with the couch" -- in not much more than twenty minutes. John Fisher's direction could not be better.

The show's subtitle "Pleasure is Pleasure" seems to apply here to ice cream. You never really get enough. You can't get this stunning story's message out of your head. You want more ice cream.

This is Word For Word at its finest. Incidentally, author T.C. Boyle is speaking at the January 21 show -- though it costs extra for a ticket that night.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Food Stories: Pleasure is Pleasure" Four Exuberantly Happy Stars. If I knew Photo Shop better I would paint happy faces on them all. If you're feeling a bit peckish when you go in, you'll come out rubbing your belly with satisfaction.

We have heard that Z-SPace has done a lot of work upgrading the audio -- which is to say you can hear a lot better in the upper reaches of the grandstand-style seating now. Still, we haven't heard this ourselves yet and we recommend you sit as close to the stage as possible.

"Food Stories: Pleasure is Pleasure"
Stories by T.C. Boyle ("Sorry, Fugu") and Alice McDermott (Enough")
Z Space Theater
450 Florida Street, San Francisco
Through February 5
$30-$55 (discounts available)

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