Shiner (San Francisco)
Faultline Theater continues its mission of presenting provocative theatre aimed at a younger generation of theatre-goer with its production of Shiner, a sort of William Shakespeare meets Harmony Korine mash-up now running through July 25 at San Francisco’s interesting performance venue PianoFight.
Playwright Christian Durso’s two-character piece is set in 1994 during “grunge” rock’s heyday. The play opens with Margo (Monica Ho), President of her middle school’s Grunge Rock Underground National Great Escape after-school club, welcoming Jake (Adam Magill), the club’s only applicant, and appointing him Vice-President. Club members are expected to do the following:
1.) Attend an upcoming concert by the greatest band that ever walked the earth – Nirvana
2.) After said concert, ascend a Ventura Freeway overpass
4.) Die happy
Margo, as hard-core as a 14 year old girl can be, has quite a challenge ahead of her in bringing the polo shirt-wearing, khaki-clad, musically-deficient Jake up to G.R.U.N.G.E. club standards. Jake, desperate to be a part of something, to fit in somewhere, is willing to go as far as Margo wants and, ultimately, maybe farther.
The journey they take to that freeway overpass is funny, haunting and disturbing. Durso’s script starts out lightly comedic but grows quite dark over its relatively brief 75 minute running time culminating in a tantalizingly ambiguous ending. The script captures the angst, joy, fear, energy, loss and alienation that many teens feel at points in their lives. Director Cole Ferriaulo has placed that script in the hands of two talented individuals who, while obviously a decade or so removed from the edge of thirteen, imbue their characters with the physicality, intonations and attitudes of young teens. The initial jolt of watching twenty-somethings play 13-year-olds soon gives way as Ho and Magill’s committed performances draw you in and never let go.
Well, almost never. Where Ferriaulo’s crisp direction faulters a bit is in the attention to detail. The set (by Gabi Immelman) consists of a graffiti-strewn (courtesy of artist Zach Rowe) Los Angeles side street, next to a music store. A pay phone sits presciently on stage-left. Taking into consideration that most people under the age of thirty have never seen a pay phone, let alone ever used one, there are a couple of basic operating procedures that should have been followed. First, you actually have to put money into a pay phone in order to get it to work. Second, dialing 222-2222 won’t get you connected and even if it does, dialing it twice won’t get you two different numbers. Minor quibbles? Perhaps, but obvious enough in such a small space to be noticeable to several audience members who made mention of it, which means the drama lost them for those moments, and that’s never a good thing. There were a couple of other missed details, but in the end they were minor bumps on the road to a very compelling piece of theatre.
By the way, sitting in that aforementioned music store are the members of Lyon Grove (Guinevere Q, Tom Lane, Jason Young), a San Francisco jam band. Rather than use well-known music cuts to bridge the scenes, Ferriaulo has the band fire up and play their original grunge-inspired score during those times. It was a very effective bridging tool and added to the sense of period. The power, energy, and anger of the music help to remind us why the characters are so drawn to it.
Faultline is doing very interesting work in a very interesting venue. (What is PianoFight? A restaurant? Bar? Cabaret? Theater? Concert Hall? Comedy Club? Podcast station? Short answer – yes.) The passion of these young artists comes through, whether through their collective work on stage, or in individual conversations after the show. Minor flaws aside, their production of Christian Durso’s Shiner – part Romeo & Juliet and part Kids set to a grunge-rock score – is one of the more absorbing and rousing shows currently running.
presented by Faultline Theater
through July 25
Thurs @ 9pm, Fri @ 9pm, Sat @ 5pm & 9pm
144 Taylor St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Photos by Clive Walker