The Fit almost ready to leave the Sandbox

(Center) Paul (Johnny Moreno*) is not impressed by Sakina’s (Avanthika Srinivasan*) pitch for ‘Shivatech’ even though Jeremy (Jeff Kim) tries to stay optimistic.

The Fit: Drama by Carey Perloff. San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series. Director Bill English. The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater | 1127 Market Street, San Francisco, CA. 415-677-9596 or  June 5 – 29, 2019

The Fit almost ready to leave the Sandbox. Rating: ★★★★☆

San Francisco Playhouse has gained an excellent reputation for their Sandbox Series dedicated to the development of new Plays. “Designed to bridge the gap between staged readings and Main-stage productions, the program combines top-notch directors and actors with limited design elements, allowing new voices in American theater to be heard while reducing the theatre’s financial risk for full production at this stage of a play’s development.” The Fit written by Carey Perloff the former artistic director of American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) is a powerful, timely riff on women breaking into the world of high finance with emphasis on venture capitalism.

Although it earns the accolades in the previous sentence there seems to be a formulaic feeling to the construction with the characters representing specific types although each actor creates a distinctive understanding of his/her role. There is the head strong driving personality of CEO Paul (Johnny Moreno) putting profits above all else and with a flawed family life associated with the pressure of work. That pressure is amplified with a brilliant lawyer wife Marcia (Arwen Anderson) who has just won a case involving the limitations of areas where women can breast feed their babies. With both in professions that require time away from family how do they share the time needed to nurture there young daughter who has an undefined medical/psychiatric malady?

In the office proper (fine set by Heather Kenyon) there is an assistant to Paul, the young male sycophant Jeremy (Jeff Kim) who has become enamored to the recent hire. She is Sakina (Avanthika Srinivason) who is Indian and a brilliant engineer graduate of M.I.T.  Sakina has written proposal to finance an unknown Indian medical device company that she feels has great potential for the medical world in general and for the company in particular. Unfortunately it is a bio-receptive, information-gathering fabric that is worn as shorts. It is understandable that Paul rails at investing in a device that requires “wearing shorts.”

Perloff has written in a fifth character Ching (Michelle Talgarow) a Pilipino cleaning lady thus providing an interwoven sub plot and a touch of humor. Although Ching plays a pivotal role in the primary play structure by the end of the two hours without intermission that sub plot is left dangling even though multiple scenes have shown a personal and professional bond between Ching and Sakina.

Paul arrives late for Sakina’s presentation and brusquely turns down her suggestion although Jeremy supports Sakina’s project. With all the characters in place Perloff  displays her theatrical moxie with cogent dialog defining character as well as creating conflict. When information surfaces that the product has potential Sakina is offered an elevation of her status.

By the time that comes to fruition a major abuse of male power against women has occurred in another branch of the organization that could bring down the entire company. Paul’s initial reaction is appalling: “I told them not to turn on the video!” Sakina controls all the aces and she must now decide to join the male bastion or head out on her own.

Perloff has covered the intricacies of the venture capital world and the mistreatment of women. Her characters feel individualistic rather than stereotypes but there a couple of scenes that take place in the lady’s washroom that seem very derivative yet are needed for plot development. It seems that the washroom stalls have replaced the drawing room screens of Lady Windermere’s Fan. All in all with a few changes the play will be ready for prime time.

Director Bill English keeps the action ongoing receiving superlative acting from every member of his cast.

CAST: Arwen Anderson as Marcia; Jeff Kim as Jeremy; Johnny Moreno as Paul, Avanthika Srinivasan as Sakina, and Michelle Talgarow as Ching.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Bill English; Assistant Director, Brittany Searles; Scenic Designer, Heather Kenyon; Costume Designer, Kathleen Qiu; Sound Designer, James Ard; Lighting Designer; Heather Kenyon; Properties Designer, Stephanie Dittbern; Dramaturg, Ryan Morales; Casting Director, Dori Jacob; Associate Sound Designer,  Christopher Sauceda; Stage Manager, Genevieve Pabon; Production Assistant,  Eliana Adise

Kedar Adour, MD

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