Friday, September 28, 2018

Bravo 25: Your Therapist Will See You Now ☼ ☼ ☼

Bravo is right. Eliza Gibson's solo show "Bravo 25: Your Therapist Will See You Now" is intelligent, funny and fascinating. Gibson plays six different patients who have come together for a group therapy session. The session is led by "Amber," a developing Artificial Intelligence avatar who is being programmed to understand human problems.

The problem is, Amber is a machine so she has no feelings. However, she is a quick study. As Tony, Cheryl, Victoria, Jeremy, Marsha and Little Bit explain the difficulties they have been having in their lives with boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, exes and children, Amber begins to absorb their pain. She even learns how to enjoy Little Bit's favorite jelly donuts.

The show takes a turn at the end which robots in the audience will probably appreciate, but for the rest of us is probably unnecessary. As a result, Bravo 25 runs a little long. But we never lose interest.

It's hard to say if we liked Gibson, the actor any more than Gibson, the writer. She runs on human warp speed, as she changes characters seemingly without drawing a breath. As a physical comic she makes most of her patients instantly recognizable, especially the lovely Marsha, the heartbroken Tony and the downtrodden Little Bit. And as a writer, she gives us a story which commands that we pay attention as we discover what we knew all along: that people need each other more than they ever realize.

A special thanks to comedian Maureen Langan, who opened the show and tossed in some memorable lines, including, when talking about her age: "I'm post-period pre-death."

RATINGS: ☼  ☼  ☼ 

The avatars and the humans at The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division agree: this show is a must-see. We love Eliza Gibson as a writer and performer and wouldn't mind calling her when we need a clinical social worker, the work she does when she isn't wowing us on stage.

"Bravo 25: Your Therapist Will See You Now"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
8pm Thursdays and 5pm Saturdays through October 27

Monday, September 24, 2018

You Mean to Do Me Harm: ☼ ☼ ☼

Christopher Chen's brand new "You Mean to Do Me Harm" has many pluses and only one minus. Especially inventive staging makes us excited to see where the cast of four might go next. The set,  which looks like a fancy U-shaped bar on an upscale spaceship, allows each character to make unexpected entrances. Director Bill English uses these entrances to blend one character's story with another's. It is very effective. In this World Premiere, Chen's story makes us examine our own motivations as we try to make sense out of the ways we interact with the ones we love.

Lindsey (Katie Rubin) and her husband Daniel (Jomar Tagatac) are celebrating with Ben (Cassidy Brown) and Samantha (Charisse Loriaux). Ben has been hired by Daniel for an un-named job at Daniel's tech company. But the night starts out badly and goes downhill from there. A previous relationship between Lindsey and Ben, as well as Daniel and Samantha's mutual attraction to one another threaten to sour not only this social event but Ben's job as well.

There is more here too: race. Daniel and Samantha are Chinese-American and their expectations color their reality. Chen takes us onto alternate channels where all four people imagine slights that maybe were real and maybe weren't, and things that were said but not meant like they sounded. What is maybe isn't and what happened maybe didn't. It's confusing but for the most part we follow along.

There is a problem, however, and it's personal. These are not nice people. Ben, especially, is played with such annoying and whining dweebiness that we cannot root for him. His ex is cold, his to-be-boss is paranoid and reveals nothing. And then there is Samantha, the one character who seems to see through everyone else and will use it to her advantage. The author's message appears to be that no one can be trusted to rise very far beyond cultural expectations. Without revealing the ending, we are left to wonder whether any of these people are capable of making a difference in the world.

RATINGS  ☼  ☼  ☼

The reviewers at San Francisco Theater Blog loved looking at this show. English's direction made scenes sizzle into each other. It was enjoyable to try and piece out what was reality and what was imagination. But all of this is brain. We will like "You Mean to Do Me Harm" better when we can bring more of our heart on board.

"You Mean to Do Me Harm"
San Francisco Playhouse
Second Floor,  Kensington Park Hotel
450 Post Street, San Francisco
Through Nov 3