Betty's Summer Vacation

A truly tasteless evening is in store in this farce about America's obsession with raunchy TV

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Through July 21

Tickets are $25

296-9179

Actors Theater of San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F.

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Unless your idea of a great summer vacation is a trip to the Jerry Springer Show to yell "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!," you may want to skip Christopher Durang's 1999 farce about the American public's obsession with raunchy TV. Betty (Rachel Klyce) just wants to spend her summer vacation reading and listening to the ocean, but her housemates turn out to be clones of sick and twisted talk-show guests. Keith (Drew McAuliffe) cuts off people's heads. Buck (Tim Waddell) is a surfer dude with a voracious sexual appetite. Mrs. Siezmagraff (Liz Ryan) refuses to admit her now-dead husband molested her daughter, Trudy (Jennifer Welch), and promptly brings home a drug-crazed flasher, Mr. Vanislaw (Charles Johnson). Egged on by the viewing public (represented by the offstage voices of Arthur Calandrelli, Mimi Alain, and Andrew Todhunter), the group commits truly tasteless acts (including a Lorena Bobbitt moment) and spews lines of absolute crap. ("It's OK for a man to molest a girl?" Trudy asks her mother incredulously, comparing the act to a man molesting a boy. "It's more normal," replies Mrs. S.) Durang intends both to offend and to implicate his audience: The voices are insistent ("Entertain us!" and "We love to laugh") and bestow nominations for People's Choice Awards on their favorites. But if you've ever watched Judge Judy in horror, Durang won't tell you anything you don't already know. Actors Theater of San Francisco presents a passable production under the direction of Christian Phillips, and the actors bring as much depth to the characters as could be expected -- Waddell rubs his crotch and tweaks his nipples, while Welch nervously pulls at her long, red pigtails. But the best effect is the arrival of the offstage voices -- it piqued my interest enough to get me through the last segment of sitcom hell.

 
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