Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Every Five Minutes" **UNRATED **

Loretta Greco has been making good choice after good choice as Artistic Director of the Magic Theatre. Since it must have been her decision to mount the World Premiere of Linda McLean's "Every Five Minutes," and then signed herself on as Director, the only thing we can say is ... why?

McLean's last Magic Theatre production was the fabulous "Any Given Day," so we reviewers must admit up front that we had high expectations, especially with a stellar cast including Rod Gnapp, Mia Tagano, Sean San José, Carrie Paff, Patrick Alparone, Maggie Mason and Jomar Tagatac. all seasoned veterans of the San Francisco acting family. Shawna Michelle James makes her Magic debut as Molly and fits in beautifully.

But -- ya know -- a play needs a plot. Instead, "Every Five Minutes" has psychedelic tricks and explosions on a screen. We want to care about our characters, especially the leads, but we are given no reason, no backstory and very little emotion, except for Rod Gnapp's Mo, who has constant flashbacks. We're talking constant. Not every five minutes, every three seconds. The others sit around wondering what to do. So do we.

As for the story, Mo has apparently been kidnapped by...somebody...and held prisoner...somewhere... for seventeen years...for some reason...while his family and friends have worked for his release. He's home now, messed up of course, after torture by...clowns. Their names are Bozo and Harpo.

Seriously. And equally seriously, this drama has very little drama. Rod Gnapp has played the tortured soul in so many roles for so many years that it is becoming hard to watch. That Mo has some form of PTSD is clear. Also clear is McLean has written a nightmare role for any actor -- Gnapp is stripped naked on stage twice, undressed, soaked by hoses and dressed again, once by his clown torturers and once by -- Jesus imagery ALERT --  workers in what might be a mental institution, who do the equivalent of cutting him down from his cross and dressing him in clean linen.

Meanwhile, his wife Sara (Tagano) is doing her best to deal with both her husband and their clueless friends Ben (San José) and Rachel (Paff), whose relationship is so trivial it is another form of torture for Mo.

It's a World Premiere. Things will improve. 

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Department is flummoxed. While it is rather liberating to realize that even the most creative folks in the business can slip up from time time, it is our opinion that this show must have been rushed to the stage too soon. We in the audience must have someone we care about, some ray of hope and, hopefully, a second emotion besides Mo screaming. Molly's entrance is probably where the author intends to inject happiness. More of this, please.

"Every Five Minutes"
Magic Theatre
Fort Mason Center, Building D, San Francisco
Through April 20

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