An Entomologist’s Love Story beautifully staged at SF Playhouse

: Entomologists Jeff (Lucas Verbrugghe) and Betty (Lori Prince) discuss New York’s bedbug epidemic, in An Entomologist’s Love Story – through June 23 at SF Playhouse in San Francisco

 AN ENTOMOLOGIST’S LOVE STORY: Comedy by Melissa Ross. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. San Francisco Playhouse, Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post St. San Francisco, CA. 415-677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org . May 8 – June 23, 2018

An Entomologist’s Love Story beautifully staged at SF Playhouse. Rating: ★★★★☆

It is often a lengthy journey for a new play to finally earn a full staging. The world premiere of Melissa Ross’ An Entomologist’s Love Story began over three years ago after winning an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant to write a play about the lives of scientists. Background material was gleaned by working as an intern at the New York Museum of Natural History. She focused her study on entomologists who were steeped in study of the NYC bed bug infestation. A reading at the 2014 new works festival by TheatreWorks was directed by Giovanna Sardelli who still remains as the plays director.

It is a four character play that begins with the protagonist Betty (Lori Prince) giving a lecture about the sex lives of insects complete with vivid projections including the praying mantis female eating her mate after she has been impregnated. The lecture ends with the sex life of bed bugs that have no finesse. This is clever bit of foreshadowing since Betty and Jeff (Lucas Verbrugghe) are studying bed bugs and there is a clever plot twist crucial to the love story.

Betty’s co-worker and former boyfriend Jeff (Lucas Verbrugghe) have worked together for years and more than a bit of animosity lingers in Betty’s psyche. Whereas Jeff wears male privilege graciously it is an irritation to Betty who apparently has to hide her intellect in seeking male attention. Jeff insists he likes the challenge of meeting smart women. Betty’s attitude creates a semi-toxic atmosphere and she deals with people brusquely.

When a telephone caller asks information about bites on her legs Betty angrily turns the phone over to Jeff who is quietly helpful. The caller is Lindsay (Jessica Lyn Carroll) who is almost a caricature of a dumb blondes. As a friendship develops between Jeff and Lindsay Betty turns more hostile to Jeff who eventually rebels leaving Betty even more frustrated.

On her office break in Central Park Betty is joined by Andy (Will Springhorn, Jr.) who recognizes her from a lecture she gave at Fordham University. He was impressed with her witty lecture methods although he has no interest in insects.  His likes are very plebian yet he shows more than a passing interest in Betty who fails to give him the requested telephone number. Not to be deterred Andy finds her name and office number and delivers a huge garish bouquet of flowers. They meet again in the park and Springhorn as Andy brings a ray of light into the play even though his personal life is screwed up. Springhorn gives a magnificent non-stop delivery of the details of how screwed up he is that apparently touches a soft spot in Betty. There seems to be a break in Betty’s tough façade but Ross leaves that interpretation up to the audience. The play ends with another lecture but this time it emphasizes the hopeful beauty of firefly mating.

Once again Nina Ball’s magnificent set uses the revolving stage to great advantage and with Theodore Huslkers projection designs almost overpowers the play. Astute directing by Sardelli allows us to almost like Betty as expertly created by Lori Prince’s acting displaying potential softness behind a rough exterior of intellect, hostility and  jealousy. The part of Lindsay is underwritten and Jessica Lynn Carroll is not given an opportunity to fully react to Lucas Verbrugghe’s perfect under-acting.

Running time is about 80 minutes without an intermission and is well worth a visit.

CAST: Jessica Lynn Carroll as Lindsay; Lori Prince as Betty; Will Springhorn Jr. as Andy; Lucas Verbrugghe as Jeff.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Giovanna Sardelli; Scenic Designer, Nina Ball; Costume Designer, Brooke Jennings; Sound Designer, Theodore J.H. Hulsker; Lighting Designer, Kurt Landisman; Properties Designer, Jacquelyn Scott; Projections Designer, Theodore J.H. Hulsker.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Coutesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

Photo Caption: Entomologists Jeff (Lucas Verbrugghe) and Betty (Lori Prince) discuss New York’s bedbug epidemic, in An Entomologist’s Love Story – through June 23 at SF Playhouse in San Francisco…

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