Death Trap

A fine ensemble of actors can't save The Shadow Box; a deadly dull Galaxy

The production has been dedicated to the memory of volunteer usher extraordinaire Genevieve Hustead, and to be frank, I'm not sure how she would have felt about being honored by this particular play. I have no doubt she would cherish the tribute by the company, but Genevieve, who died last month of cancer, was not someone who retreated from life. I can't imagine her packing herself off to a swanky hospital-resort to die in a cabin. No, she believed as Maggie does that life is to be lived on its own terms right until the end. Something she did with grace and unflagging enthusiasm.

What do you get when you stage a play with no conflict (sorry, whining doesn't count), no character development, no tension (audience squirming doesn't count either), no imagination, and a lot of women walking around in revealing togas? If you said Galaxy Date 2022, you're a winner. Playwrights Jessica Yarborough (she wants us to know she has a Ph.D. in human development), Leilani Whitney, and Marianne Schwab (a television producer whose most recent gig was "writing and producing for Kathleen Sullivan's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. Simpson trail on E! Entertainment Television") have perpetrated a dead-on-arrival women's-issues play which uses Aristophanes' Lysistrata to announce that in the future, nothing will have changed. Women will still be underpaid, abused, and slaves to men. This may be the case, but that's no excuse for 20th-century psychobabble, lifeless performances, and stultifying cliches.

To my amazement I found myself feeling sorry for the men who clump shamefacedly around the stage from time to time. Especially poor Matt Jacob, a flutist who plays Pan. His hirsute bare belly bulging over low-cut furry leggings was a source of mirth for more than one of us in the mostly empty Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. It was welcome comic relief. Thanks, Matt. Next time, though, read your contract.

The Shadow Box runs through July 30 at the Phoenix Theatre in S.F.; call 626-9269. Galaxy Date 2022 runs through July 1 at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in S.F.; call 392-4400.

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