Lonely Planet

This respectful restaging is well acted and directed, but it still seems about one scene too long


Through Aug. 4

Tickets are $12-18;


Exit Theater, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F.

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You know you've been a critic too long when you've seen Lonely Planet twice. Steven Dietz's play about two gay men and a map store had a maudlin production at the New Conservatory a few years ago; now Unconditional Theater is giving it a respectful, colorful run at the Exit. Jody (Michael Patrick Gaffney) runs the map store. Carl (Ian McConnel) keeps bringing him chairs. Each chair, we learn, stands for a friend who's died of AIDS. Soon the map store fills with chairs. This conceit would be stickily sentimental if Carl weren't so strange; he spins wild lies about his (probably nonexistent) job -- on a supermarket tabloid? at a museum? -- and acts cagey about where the chairs come from. McConnel does a brilliant job with Carl; he's frantic, shlumpy, and eccentric, and he can also give a soliloquy full of grief and pain. Gaffney counters this quirkiness as a well-balanced straight man. John Warren directs the show expertly, but Lonely Planet still seems to be about one scene too long. Emotion fizzles and weakens into gesture by the end, and the audience on opening night gave it an appreciative ovation before the actors had finished.

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