Compulsive Talkers

Meteor Girl and How to Become an American reveal the ups and downs of going solo

When autobiographical monologues are moving, it's because the artist transcends the personal and makes his or her experience universal. Morewood has the most success in this regard with the "Jake" sequence when, after blissful days spent playing (unsupervised) in the local four-star hotel, the tables are turned and the rich American boy comes to the Morewoods' row house in Manchester. Jake is clearly surprised by how little the family has in the way of material goods, and the young Tony interprets this as disdain. Yet when it's time for Jake to leave, he betrays his loneliness by clinging to Tony's mother.

The second-act resumption of personal history is considerably less compelling. Here, unpleasant encounters with U.S. Immigration are reduced to abstractions -- interviews for a green card are characterized as torture, complete with blindfold. While we may sympathize, Morewood seems to be pouting, which robs him of perspective and humor. (OK, it was tough, but it's not as though he landed in a detention camp after arriving in a leaky boat.)

His observations about English and American cultural differences are funny and right on the mark, but they reconfigure the evening as a very long stand-up routine that ultimately undermines whatever theatrical punch it might have. And however entertaining his stories, they do not justify the length of this show in its present form.

Meteor Girl runs through Aug. 20 at 450 Geary Studio Theatre in S.F.; call 346-7671. How to Become an American runs through Aug. 26 at the Marsh in S.F.; call 826-5750.

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