Two men square off over a woman in labor


Through Feb. 16

Admission is $12-18

Exit Theater, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F., 885-6460

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This new play by Michael Mace is named for a rough, unofficial kind of boxing match that one of the characters, Charlie, fights for a living. He's fought "smokers" for his furniture, his liquor, and his coffee maker. Now he has to fight one (figuratively) for his wife, Mona, who's lying in labor somewhere offstage, possibly with another man's child. This other man is an out-of-shape oaf named Mitch, who's tied, for amusing reasons, to a chair. The play has a colorful, Tarantino-inflected style, with quirky, gun-waving characters and excellent live music by a roots-rock band called the Evil Boll Weevil Boys. Mace is a nimble playwright who can get straight to the point of his scenes without much bullshit; even so, Smoker, overall, is not a well-constructed show. The plot twists and flashbacks feel willed, ungraceful. David Tenenbaum as Charlie, Dave Garrett as Mitch, and Joe Weatherby as a blind referee named Sol can all act well in soliloquies, but when they work together the show somehow loses energy, and the point of the play dissipates like smoke.

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