By Joseph Geha
By Jonathan Kiefer
By Katie Tandy
By Mollie McWilliams
By Jennifer Baires
By Jonathan Curiel
By Sherilyn Connelly
Becky Mode's extremely slight script about a beleaguered reservationist at a hot New York restaurant is clever and well-constructed, but you may find it fading from your memory as soon as it ends. What you will remember is Ethan Sandler's energetic performance as Sam, the would-be actor stuck in a hellish job, and in about 30 other roles, including the upstairs restaurant staff and a multitude of callers, most trying to secure an unavailable table. Stuck alone at the reservations desk, Sam has to deal with a constant barrage of phone calls involving imperious patrons, the eccentric maitre d', and the impossible chef who runs the whole thing. What drives the play is Sam's move from whipping boy (the chef refuses to give him Christmas off so he can spend it with his sick father; Sam's agent tells him he's not getting parts because he conveys "a certain lack of entitlement") to triumphant manipulator, bartering the tables he suddenly controls to get what he wants. Sandler often uses only his voice and a slight change in posture to delineate between characters (and caricatures), yet they are all clearly and consistently drawn. One standout is Bryce, Naomi Campbell's swishy personal assistant, who keeps calling with Ms. Campbell's increasingly outrageous demands. (At one point he wants to know if her table is near the lighting sconces. If so, Naomi will have to bring her own halogen bulbs, as the house's make her look too orange.) Sandler is the only thing onstage for the entire show, and he's almost constantly in motion -- running, sometimes diving to the phones; shifting voices, accents, bodies; and cleaning up other people's shit (literally in one case). His acting feat almost gives the quality of soufflé to what is otherwise instant pudding. Directed by Daniel Goldstein.
Through Sept. 3 at the Theater on the Square, 450 Post (between Powell and Mason), S.F. Admission is $25-35; call 433-9500.
"Frankenfoods," or genetically modified produce and meat, have been on the market for years, but panic in Europe and Asia and a now-famous American study on monarch butterflies have made them a trendy flash point for the radical left. The issue has all the ingredients for an agitprop show by the San Francisco Mime Troupe -- money-grubbing capitalists, starvation in the Third World, and nerdy sinister scientists doing things nobody quite understands to the foundation of life. Scary! Isn't it? Well, at least genetics and global economics are so complicated you can say almost anything about the people involved and get a laugh. It may come as a surprise, then, that the Mime Troupe's new show chops its argument finely enough to avoid exploiting the usual nightmares about killer mutant turnips. Its science-fiction plot deals with Dr. Isaac Albright (Michael Gene Sullivan), who regrets rushing to market with a strain of Super Corn, and travels back in time to change the course of history. Instead of panning genetically altered food as a concept, the play tries to show how market pressures break down good science, and how "bioserfdom" arises when Third World countries depend on seed from one particular (usually American) firm. It's silly, self-deprecating, and basically engaging. You still have to sit through bad songs like "Our Dream," a smarmy duet between Dr. Albright and his wife, Dr. Albright-Bloom (Velina Brown), but there's also "Savin' Seeds," a hokey folk protest on guitar and mandolin by a couple of funny Canadian farmers, and a shameless Threepenny Opera rip-off called "Short Term Gain." Overall it's much better than Damaged Care, two years ago; rumors that the Mime Troupe has improved are true.
In various Bay Area parks through Sept. 4. Admission is free; call 285-1717 for a schedule.
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