As Juicy as You Want Me to Be by Daniele Nathanson dealt with a woman who thought she was a stick of gum. Her monologue told the history of her self-image, starting with "cupcake" and "Sweetart"; after she found feminism it morphed into "Rollo" (sweet inside but with a hard shell). After she fell in love with Jeff, though, he "licked off the chocolate coating," and she cast around for some new identity until she heard a certain commercial. "I have proudly been a piece of Doublemint gum for one year," she said -- long and sweet, low on calories -- but Jeff preferred other flavors of gum.

If that piece cloyed a little, it also wasn't bad, because the woman, played by Delia MacDougall, had a defined personality. Definition -- and possibly MacDougall -- made Crawling Out of Your Skin the strongest play of the evening. "Jessica" is a full-blooded character with a Southern accent, created by Mary Michael Wagner. She told a riveting story about getting abducted by a man with one fake eye, and a well-placed digression near the end starkly established where she was as she spoke (in an abortion clinic). The script would work as a written yarn, and in fact Wagner has won two national awards for short fiction.

Maybe the funniest play was Brackets, by Jen Anderson, about two young men in separate age brackets. The "18-24," reading Details, told the "25-35" about all the ways he conformed to his peers. (His entertainment system was in a cabinet; he owned a Polartec coat.) This kind of humor rots quickly -- in 10 years the brand names and magazine will have to be different -- but the audience laughed.

PlayGround started as a "partnership" with San Francisco State University, and so far the contest is still SFSU-heavy: All the winners except Anderson admit some connection to the school. But involving judges like Paul Walsh (dramaturge at ACT) makes it a significant thing to win, and it would be nice to see PlayGround become a long-standing, Bay Area-wide event, especially since the name is so cool.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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