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Zenith. Written by Kirsten Greenidge, Directed by Lauren English. SF Playhouse Sandbox Series, A.C.T. Costume Shop, 1117 Market Street, San Francisco.

In Kirsten Greenidge’s Zenith, an attempt is made to provide understanding to an incomprehensible act of horror, a car crash with multiple fatalities. Ever since I was involved in a ferry crash off the coast of Thailand, I read the tiny newspaper articles about ferry crashes wherever they occur, so I understand Greenidge’s impetus here; the real-life story of a woman who drove nearly 2 miles down the wrong way of a highway, causing a head-on collision that killed eight people, including herself and her children.  Zenith constructs the event moving backwards, exploring and humanizing the circumstances behind the tragedy. The construction of the play, using backflashes and interviews, as well as the acting are superb.

Nia Fairweather (Hazel) and Adrian Roberts (Chuck) can’t reconcile their grief. Photo by Ken Levin.

Angela is a loving mother and aunt, striving to be perfect and in-charge; a nuts and bolts woman eager to take her children and nieces on a lovely Memorial Day camping weekend.  But right from the start, we begin to see clues to the ‘real’ Angela. Holding a hand to her mouth, she suffers from extreme pain from a bad molar. She has deep emotional issues surrounding her parents nasty divorce. She bickers with her friends about their seeming irresponsibility’s (partying and drinking). Angela is wound way too tight; her male child is unruly and out of control, her marriage to philandering husband Chuck, is on the rocks. Everything is falling apart and throughout the 80-minute play we eventually come to see Angela as a wounded, unhinged woman capable of such a heinous act. Was the accident conscious or unconscious, we will never know. Zenith presents a possible scenario to help explain the inexplicable.

Indiia Wilmott, Atim Udoffia and Nia Fairweather. Photo by Ken Levin.

Atim Udoffia creates a sympathetic Angela, a damaged woman struggling to maintain her cool and reach the zenith. Nia Fairweather and Khiry Moyer excellently portray the grieving parents Hazel and Tim, inconsolable as expected. Adrian Roberts plays Angela’s husband Chuck, trapped by her smothering motherhood and struggling with his perceived emasculation. Rounding out the excellent cast are Sally Dana and Indiia Wilmott in a multitude of roles supporting the psychological makeup of Angela. Lauren English does a fine job of moving the actors around the difficult space of the Costume Shop. Kudos to Jacquelyn Scott (scenic designer), Sophia Craven (lighting) and Madeleine Oldham (sound).

Performances run through September 10th, 2017    www.sfplayhouse.org   414.677.9596