The Beginning of August

A witty playwright with a tough job -- turning the suburbs into engaging drama


Through May 24

Tickets are $5-20


Actors Theatre, 533 Sutter (between Mason and Powell), S.F.

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Tom Donaghy's witty suburban play starts promisingly enough; it's about a man coming apart at the seams after his wife abandons him with a newborn daughter to care for. Jackie, the man, still has a high-powered job, and he can't manage his duties without help from a shifty house-painter and his dead father's second wife. This wife, or widow, named Joyce, shows a strange desire to play house with Jackie, as if they were newlyweds. But she has no idea how to care for a baby, either, and ends the first act drunk. The supporting cast in this Actors Theatre production, directed by Christian Phillips and Kenneth Vandenberg, is very good, especially Susi Damilano as Joyce and Scott Agar Jaicks as a tactless, tattooed, Weedwacker-wielding neighbor named Ted. But the lead roles are hopelessly stiff. Christian Haines isn't in tune with his character's emotional changes, though these changes are supposed to be muted (Jackie's a stoic guy), and Eleese Longino plays his wife, Pam, as a cardboard cutout. (Part of the problem with Pam is that she's patchily written.) But Donaghy knows how to turn the modern suburbs into engaging drama -- not as easy as it sounds -- and it would be nice to see a little more of his work in San Francisco.

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