Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Jewelry Box" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Brian Copeland has had a lot of success as a solo performer, beginning with his epic "Not a Genuine Black Man," which still holds the record for the longest-running solo performance in San Francisco theater history. The reason is simple: the man is really funny. This time, Copeland has polished up another gem from his past with "The Jewelry Box," a wacky and heartwarming story about trying to raise the money to buy his mom a Christmas present when he was six years old. We meet lots of characters from his East Oakland neighborhood of the 1970s, including his mom and his sisters, his estranged father and his two grandmothers, his landlord, a car salesman, the school counselor, a chihuahua and, best of all, two trash-talking winos hanging out in front of the local convenience store.

Nobody does voices better than Brain Copeland and David Ford's co-production allows each character plenty of space to come alive. We cringe when we see his dad, Sylvester, because we know what's going to happen; we cheer when the school counselor comes up with a solution to Brian's problem; and we are first horrified and then gratified by the fine surprise ending.

We also get a supporting soundtrack including lots of soulful Christmas songs. Seeing as it isn't even Thanksgiving yet and we are already over the edge with "Winter Wonderland," hearing these old nuggets just adds to the show's luster.

You never know how long solo performances can last, but "The Jewelry Box" could turn into one of those shows you bring your family to every season. We saw it last year in development and it is even richer now. Call up everyone, even Grandma -- just not Brian's Grandma -- and bring them down to the Marsh for a smile and tug at the heart.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Jewelry Box" THREE STARS with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. In addition to being an amazing performer, Copeland is a fine writer. None of these vignetters are wasted, each tells us something -- about a character, about a different perspective on Christmas, about the neighborhood, about Brian Copeland as a man. He tackles a lot of subjects along the way. Writing, production and acting: Each deserves one star.

The BANGLE OF PRAISE is for "The First Santa Threat of the Season." Oh, woe, so true. Brian, we feel (and remember) your pain.

"The Jewelry Box"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Thu-Fri 8pm, Sat 5pm through Dec. 28

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