Friday, May 7, 2010

A Glowing Review

“All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

William Shakespeare As You like It

The young waiter dons the wares of his profession; a white shirt, a tie, black pants, with matching shoes. His face his clean shaven, his pockets full with pens and his personality is shellacked with a smile. He goes to the table and acts out his performance with the regularity of a professional, he knows his lines, and repeats them accordingly. The illusion cast by society is set, the restaurant is draped in hospitality, the actor moves about with ease, and the process proceeds ad infinitum according to the rule of capital.

Outside the floor the young actor engages in other moments of mimicry. While one motion on stage is for survival the other is for pleasure, for play. It is here in the moments outside the world of work that I was able to see a young mimic in movement.

The small play house, brought together by PianoFight, is located in the financial district of the mission in San Francisco. Amongst the towering artifices to business lies a small stage. One enters via a street level entrance, the only mark of entry is a sandwich board that announces the evenings events. The night’s performance was part of Shortlived, a 13 week competition running in SF and LA. The competition features several one act skits. The audience votes on the skits and through a tournament style elimination one play is proved the most entertaining spectacle.

Rob Ready and Dan Williams, founders of PianoFight, let the curtains rise to humorous antics and give aways. The two gave gifts out to audience members who correctly answered questions in regards to the play structure. When asked how many plays there would be I screamed out “Obama!” My populist non sequiter won me a can of Budweiser. I left it unopened, not to be drunk until the above went forward with his promises to the mensch… I would die a thirsty man.

The first play of the evening was a romance of sorts. A young couples are at a mechanic’s. The woman’s auto has been fixed by a mechanic who seeks to overcharge. The woman is indignant, her beau seeks to gloss over the mess and get on with life, no matter the monetary cost. A fight ensues, a make up, and the curtain drops. Entertaining enough for its length.

The second performance was more cumbersome to the mind. A young man and woman were spot lit on stage. They engaged in a conjoined monologue recounting their days as serial killers on the run. The woman was dressed like Uma Thurma in “Pulp Fiction,” while her male love interest was garbed as a blonde haired “Ramones” punk. The young punk forgot his lines, and the woman two thirds of the way through the lengthy act engaged in a slow dance on the stage reminiscent of the cinematic moment when Thurman sashays for John Travolta. The two danced together with choreography. I grew bored in my seat, sucked into it with ennui.

The third play was an interesting idea but poorly executed. The play “Inner Dialogues,” had two young men meet up at a coffee shop on a first date. The two didn’t engage in actual conversation, but rather their inner thoughts were spoken aloud. One character’s thought process was blatant while the other were more muddled, it seemed as if he was in actual dialogue. The ending, of course, had them speak what they were actually thinking, a painful trope.

The last play, which I viewed as the herrpunkt of the evening had the spotlight shone on young Joe Scheppers, our favorite waiter, and his straight man, Cooper Carlson, in Maybe Tov. The play written by Pamela Davis had Scheppers as the visual dynamite in the tragic comedy about a young man, who just MAYBE engaged. His confusion is set immediately as he discusses with his pal the circumstances of his pseudo proposal. The hilarity is in the ambiguity of a pivotal point in our young actor’s life, a moment that I found not too funny as my many proposals to the ladies of the world have been shot down in cold blood! Cruel! Cruel World! Yet my ability to truly empathize with Scheppers was what made the play rewarding.

Scheppers brilliant performance was in taking on the role as if it was his own, he wore the skin of anxiety like he wears his waiting outfit, but with more exuberance. What really made the play worth seeing though was not the act, which shone so brightly that it lit the darkness of my soul, but in seeing Scheppers afterwards. His eyes lit with eagerness, with a peak of performance. He was a man who had achieved a goal, beautifully, a goal that weren’t as rote as the motions set out by work.

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