Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The Award Winning San Francisco Playhouse is presently performing the riotous ABIGAIL’S PARTY by Mike Leigh as directed by Amy Glazer.
Susi Damilano, rightfully the first lady of San Francisco stage comedy, marvelously plays Beverly: a diabolical, deranged hostess reminiscent of the Stanford Prison Experiment, Mommie Dearest and Lindsay English.
Half hostess, half Nurse Ratchet, all evil; Beverly is the accidental devil herself; plying her guests, or captives, with alcohol as if it were mineral water, Beverly turns a perfectly wretched, boring party into a disaster and psycho-drama.
Even the audience is held captive because the play is gut-wrenchingly hilarious; insanely funny; but, you might catch yourself asking, “Should I be laughing at this?”
Neither a professional elevator operator, an evil spouse, nor a trained psychologist could ever push buttons as effectively as Beverly; tormenting her guests with gouging remarks which run the spectrum from careless, to tasteless, to tactless to ruthless.
Beverly shepherds her ovine victims into Dante’s stygian depths of tormented revelers.
Even a liter of gin won’t dull the mental anguish inflicted by Madame Beverly.
Ms. Damilano is the closest San Francisco is going to get to having its own Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett or Lily Tomlin; her comedy is nuanced to the rafters, her timing is to the nanosecond and her movements as salacious as they are comic.
Despite a supporting cast of four characters; this is nearly a one woman show; like a dominatrix, Beverly takes charge, rough riding her guests right into the fetid carpet stains.
A great set design by Bill English captures the very essence of chintzy kitsch, glitzy pretense and cheesy misguided intentions: superbly done; it induces a visual queasiness even before the house lights flicker.
If you are looking for a fun evening in San Francisco, then ABIGAIL’S PARTY is your ticket; this is art wrapped in bacon, wrapped in Velveeta, topped with Whip and Chill.
To reserve your night of laughter, surf over to SFPLAYHOUSE.ORG or call 415-677-9596.