Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life Gone Viral: ☼ ☼ ☼

Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen are wonderful performers. In their newest show "Life Gone Viral," co-written with director David Ford, we get to test the hypothesis that creepy people behaving creepily can still be worthy of an audience's empathy.

Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not.

In Act One we meet oncologist Lillian Steinberg, played by Cohen, and her patient Adam Roth, played by Varon, who has just discovered that he doesn't have the pancreatic cancer previously diagnosed by Steinberg. We also meet Dr. Steinberg's ex-husband Donald (Varon) and Roth's ex-wife Ellyn (Cohen), who just happen to be spying on their two exes, using a new-fangled electronic snoop device developed by a Russian engineer (Varon).

The performances are so good, and funny and truthful, that by intermission, though we have no idea where the show is going, we can't wait to find out.

Then comes Act Two, and perhaps we discover the dreaded "one or two too many writers" syndrome. With such an intriguing setup, we wait, at the very least, for an opinion from the stage. Is technology good? Is technology bad? Are we really supposed to believe that Dr. Steinberg has been won over by the smarmy Roth? What is with the ex-wife and ex-husband's new venture? And what in the world can Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen Foundation possibly have to do with this futuristic suspend-your-disbelief story?

All three principals have solid pedigrees. We have been awaiting the World Premiere for quite a long time and by all accounts it is very different from earlier incarnations. There is even a real set on the Marsh stage -- a first. The show is good already and we can only believe that a first act this strong will develop its own voice as time goes on, and lead us to a conclusion that feels like a conclusion, instead of three funny writers tossing in gags.

RATINGS ☼  ☼  ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Life Gone Viral" Three Stars. This breaks down as four stars for Act One and two stars for Act Two. We especially love Jeri Lynn Cohen's characters, both of which have a lot of heart. Varon stays at an intellectual distance, but Cohen makes us understand and root for her. And as for her spot-on New York accent, we are guessing Bayside, Queens.

"Life Gone Viral"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - run length undetermined

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