The Best of PlayGround 18 a charming/sweet/sad/satiric fun filled evening at the Thick House.

Adam Roy, Stacy Ross, Rinabeth Apostol and Howard Swain in Ruben Grijalva’s MR.WONG’S GOES TO WASHINGTON, from Best of PlayGround 18.

Best of PlayGround 18: Five short plays and one musical. Thick  House, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA.  (415) 992-6677 or visit  www.PlayGround-sf.org/bestof.

May 8 – May 25, 2014   Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5 stars)

The Best of PlayGround 18 a charming/sweet/sad/satiric fun filled evening at the Thick House.

PlayGround, the showcase for promising new playwrights in Bay Area, has come up with another winner for their 18th season. This year they again are using the intimate 99 seat Thick House Theatre for their productions. There was not an empty seat and the appreciative audience (certainly many were/are friends of the writers) was treated to a 90 minute, without intermission, roller-coaster of emotional theatre.

The curtain raiser, a cutting/satirical /farce  (Mr. Wong’s Goes to Washington by Ruben Grijalva,  directed by M. Graham Smith) started out the evening on a hilarious note.  The marvelous ensemble acting (Rinabeth Apostol, Stacy Ross, Adam Roy, Howard Swain, and Jomar Tagatac) skewers US Governmental decision making over such a mundane choice of Chinese take-out food or cheaper sandwiches from the local deli.

This was followed by (When You Talk About This by Patricia Cotter, directed by Tracy Ward) a direct take-off on David Mamet’s  Oleanna  and Robert Anderson’s  Tea and Sympathy. For this two-hander author Cotter envisions a liaison with a young student poet (Adam Roy) taking a course in statistics from 40 year female professor (Stacy Ross). When Stacy utters the fateful line, “(Years from now)When you talk about this, and you will. . .) the final words are not “be kind.”

Adam Roy and Stacy Ross in Patricia Cotter’s WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS

After the two opening plays getting off to an excellent start there is a letdown with The Broken-Tooth Comb a mathematical fantasy by William Bivins, directed by Katja Rivera.

Since the set changes are minimal there is little time to cogitate on the previous 10-15 minute play. So it was with Stranger in a Stranger Land by Karen Macklin, directed by Michael French. Newly arrived in San Francisco, Lynn (Stacy Ross) is looking of Mr. Right. Her first encounter with hippie Mitchell (Teddy Spencer) at Starbucks is a disaster as is it is with Brian (Jomar Tagatac) who runs an Internet “Cuddling Service.” When handsome, charming Paul (Adam Roy) takes her to a (shocking) nude beach Lynn is about to give up and ends up depressed at the Museum of Modern Art. There is a bitter-sweet ending with Brandon (Howard Swain) that will cheer you up and make you want to applaud.

Riding Dragonsby Victoria Chong Der, directed by Nancy Carlin was my seat mate’s favorite and for good reason. What starts out as mother/daughter (Stacy Ross/ Rinabeth Apostol) discussion with an unseen school official, adroitly becomes a mother/daughter generational gap conflict that melts into a heart-tugging mystical ending.

Stacy Ross and Rinabeth Apostol in Victoria Chong Der’s RIDING DRAGONS

The curtain comes down on the evening with the musical Love Spacewalked Inby Maury Zeff, directed by Jim Kleinmann with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. What would happen if the onboard hydro-waste recycler in a space ship orbiting the moon suddenly has a “log-jam” (their words not mine)? It just happens that the inventor of the recycler, Russian Lieutenant Valentina Blazenhov (Rinabeth Apostol) is only minutes away surveying the Sea of Tranquility for Vladimir Putin’s beach house. She enters with a snorkel and a diver’s mask and holds a plunger. Love blossoms in a most unusual way and all end up singing “Love Walked In.” Oh, I forgot to mention that it is a full cast production that director Kleinman has fun moving them around in zero gravity.

Front) Howard Swain, Jomar Tagatac, Adam Roy, (Back) Rinabeth Apostol and Teddy Spencer in Maury Zeff’s LOVE SPACEWALKED IN,

Recommendation: Well worth seeing and mostly satisfying.

Ensemble Cast: Rinabeth Apostol, Stacy Ross, Adam Roy, Howard Swain, Jomar Tagatac, and Teddy Spencer.

Artistic Staff: Lighting Designer,Mark Hueske; Sound Designer, Josh Senick; Costume Designer,Jocelyn Leiser Herndon; Casting Director, Annie Stuart;      Properties Artisan, Cindy Goldfield; Production Manager, Marcus Marotta; Stage Manager,Bethanie Baeyen;Assistant Stage Manager, Siobhan FitzGerald; Production Assistant/Dresser, Melissa Kallstrom.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com.