Stage Capsules

Wrong Mountain

David Hirson's post-postmodern comedy hinges on Henry Dennett (Ron Rifkin), a poet who believes lack of a readership proves his brilliance; poetry is the only true art, while theater is pornography, affirming rather than challenging the middle classes' views of themselves. The position is indefensible, yet Dennett trumpets it for an entire act before being brought down: Dennett's ex-wife's new playwright husband (Larry Pine) dares him to write a script and get it produced within six months. Dennett wins the bet, but loses his soul (or realizes he never had one, or whatever). For all his condescending superiority, he doesn't really know who he is, you see. Most of the play's roles are underdeveloped and the cast can't do anything with them, but Daniel Jenkins as a young playwright has an endearingly awkward posture, and delivers Hirson's banal treatises with a straight face. The only real humor comes from Daniel Davis (Niles the Butler on TV's The Nanny) as a playwright festival director, an overdramatic old fraud with red hair and gray roots. Davis nails every punch line, prancing and mincing about, referring to Lawrence Olivier as "Kiki" in feigned intimacy. Despite his phoniness, he's the only real human being. The rest of Hirson's writing is coldly intellectual without actually being intelligent. Symbols recur like clockwork (the moon, corn, a parasitic worm, mirrors, old men playing Romeo), their obviousness providing good fodder for high school English papers. "Pornography" isn't the right word for this self-absorbed, self-referential play -- "masturbation" suits it far better. Directed by Richard Jones.

The Grass Harp


Wrong Mountain: Through Nov.21 at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Call 749-2228.

The Grass Harp: Through Nov. 14 at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Call 861-8972.

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