I must admit, my days as a theater-goer, whether large productions or small, in San Francisco have been pretty limited these past few years. Politically and socially speaking, there's only so much out there that interests me. And I find much of it rather repellent, particularly productions with puerile titles such as "Puppetry of the Penis" "The Vagina Monologues" and "Urinetown." Indeed, the latter could have been written about San Francisco itself, judging by the odors emanating from many a street corner.
So it was with some trepidation that I went last weekend to see the non-profit theater company Not Quite Opera's production of "Absolutely San Francisco
" at the Phoenix Theater. In its own words, the show is "a musical revue about life, love and the San Francisco Dream." Seeing as I've become something of a skeptic of said dream, I didn't know how I would react to the show's premise. But I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised.
The show revolves around four characters and a broken-down cable car one foggy San Francisco afternoon. The characters represent various aspects of San Francisco: Grace, the Asian immigrant who owns a souvenir shop and dotes on her son; Harry's Wife, the bag lady type who drinks too much and yet is a veritable font of wisdom; Jeffrey, the gay sommelier who got "married" only to get "divorced" soon after; and Davo, the aging hippie still steeped in reveries of the fabled "Summer of Love." Davo, like the rest of the characters, is not quite what he appears to be.
Over the course of the show, all of them come to terms with the themselves and with each other to varying degrees and they do so largely through song. The songs were well-sung and the lyrics were moving, clever, and in some cases, ripe with political subtext.
Of the latter, my favorite had to be Davo's realization that a life spent in pursuit of various liberal political causes, while neglecting and mistreating those closest to him, made him highly "Insensitive." The other was "My Brilliant Marxist," an ode to lost love and even more lost (and impossible) political ideals, both of which hit home for an ex-lefty (and an ex-wife of a Marxist) like myself. I also enjoyed the "Gavin Song," which playfully chided San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for his good looks and empty suits. It was just one of many humorous moments.
The show's themes of true love, personal responsibility, human connection, anti-boomer narcissism, liberal naivete, and West Coast/San Francisco "first-come-first-served" greed were thought-provoking and very much on the mark. At the same time, the show had a genuine sweetness about it that reminded me just what it is I love, despite all my criticisms, about the city by the bay. The scenic beauty, the hopefulness, the frontier spirit, the humor and the characters that make up San Francisco truly came across.
I caught the last packed show of the first run and I hope others will be able to see the show when it returns for a second run. Husband and wife team John (Producer) and Anne Doherty (Director, Composer, Bookwriter) tell me that they're aiming for late Spring '07.
I certainly hope so, for I've finally found some local theater that I can recommend!Cross-posted at Kesher Talk.