As If in Sleep

The most teeming, inventive, and good-spirited production in the city right now


Through Nov. 2

Tickets are $10-12


Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (between Mason and Taylor), S.F.

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The weirdest part of Tim Barsky's one-man storytelling extravaganza is also the best reason to see it: Barsky plays hip hop flute. I am not kidding. He trills minor-toned melodies over a heavy beatbox rhythm with a trick of his lips and tongue, getting three or four lines of melody and rhythm going at once. It's amazing. Barsky also chants like a keening rabbi, encourages the audience to sing a refrain, and plays a number of drums (bodhran, conga) while weaving a pair of very different stories into a not-quite-seamless whole. One story is a mythical yarn about Molly, an Irish fisherwoman who falls in love with a seal-woman and goes on a quest to revive a dead raven. The other is a realistic story based on Barsky's own experience as an outreach worker in Providence, R.I. His myth material cloys -- he uses too much of it, which dilutes its power -- but the realistic parts have an impressive range of characters and street voices. Sometimes he seems to push the colorful array of his own influences (Jewish and Iraqi folklore, Sufism, hip hop culture and music -- never mind the Irish Molly) a bit too hard, but he's also young, so you can't blame him for bathing in a sea of tradition. If the show is disorganized, it's also the most teeming, inventive, and good-spirited production in the city right now.

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