Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brian Copeland: "The Waiting Period" ☼ ☼ ☼

Brian Copeland's last, record-breaking solo show "Not a Genuine Black Man" was his personal statement about trying to find a place to stand in a conflicted and bewildering world.

But this time Copeland is biting off even more. His target is the shadowy world of depression. A long-time sufferer from this debilitating illness, to the point of trying to buy a gun in order to do away with himself (the ostensible set-up of "The Waiting Period"), Copeland is on one hand trying hard to make us laugh, and on the other trying even harder to alert us to be aware of the people we know who may be suffering just out of range of our vision.

As a one-man show it all works -- to a point.

Surprisingly, because Brian Copeland is one funny comedian, the serious story is the one that resonates. But since the man tells jokes for a living, he spends a long time getting past the banter. And he seems unsure about whether or not we will understand him. Over and again, a character speaks, then Copeland explains to the audience why the punch line, which will follow, will be funny. Then he goes back into character and delivers the punch line. We would far prefer he just tell the joke, in character, and allow us to get it.

We love many things about this show, which will only get tighter as he continues to perform it. His descriptions of his stern grandmother, by whom he was raised, as well as the friends who are trying to pull him out of his funk, and especially his daughter who is portrayed as perhaps the only one who can save him, by insisting that her father at least try to help himself -- all these characters are memorably realized.

This reviewer hopes Brian Copeland will realize how strongly we relate to the plight of his protagonist. This is a serious situation he is in. So lose the kid in the gun shop -- of course he's a dimwit. But he's not the point. And we would love to find out why two very effective characters, one an older man and one a teenager in a school, are spilling their guts to the real Brian Copeland? Is he a counselor in the school or part of a self-help program?

But we know this show will mature, as "Not a Genuine Black Man" did. Brian Copeland is a seasoned performer who can touch all our emotions. "The Waiting Period" is worth seeing right now but perhaps needs a little more time to grow into itself.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Waiting Period" Three Stars. It may become a Four Star show soon. This initial run is through March 24. We might wait a few weeks to see it -- but don't wait too long.

Brian Copeland: "The Waiting Period"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Weekends EXTENDED through July 7
$15-$35 sliding scale

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