Encore

Our critics weigh in on local theatre

Breakfast With Scot. Is the world ready for a play about a flamingly queer 11-year-old raised by two gay men? It should be, since Breakfast With Scot was a novel by Michael Downing before he turned it into a play, and the novel was well reviewed in 1999. (Publishers Weekly called Downing's fictional family "a potent, realistic new configuration of contemporary American values.") But the play is a disaster. Ed and Sam, a well-groomed professional couple in Cambridge, Mass., start looking after a boy named Scot after Scot's mother dies. The kid is more than a sissy: He wears blouses and kitsch jewelry, eyeliner and perfumed skin moisturizer, and affects the dandyism of an old queen yet talks in a piping, innocent voice. His habits amuse and embarrass Ed and Sam. They try to be good liberal parents, but Scot is precocious. He also makes secret cell-phone calls to commune with his dead mother. Not a minute of the play feels untendentious or graceful; even Scott Cox and Javier Galito-Cava, the adult actors playing Sam and Ed (respectively), have to force their gay mannerisms. Watching the young Sam Garber force his, as Scot, is painful. The show has an air of presenting an odd situation as though it's perfectly normal -- as if to say, "Look, we can be a healthy nuclear family, too" -- but the strain is obvious in every scene. If director Ed Decker wants to illustrate a "realistic new configuration" of modern American values with a play like this, I'm afraid he (and his actors) will have to work about nine times harder. Through Sept. 12 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $20-32; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Sept. 1.

Circumnavigator. Dan Hoyle circled the globe on a grant two years ago from the Chicago-based Circumnavigators Club, using its money to develop a piece of "journalistic theater" about globalism. If you've never heard of journalistic theater, don't worry: Hoyle may be its only living practitioner. In Circumnavigatorhe hops from Vietnam to India to Kenya to South Africa to Argentina, talking earnestly to everyone about labor issues. "In India, story is -- big country, small economy," says an editor of India Today. "Sex industry, mon. Mad cash," says a teenager in Kenya. "I'm from Durban, and I fucking rip waves," says a dangerously drunk pro surfer in South Africa, who's proud of his sponsorship by an American company. Many of these miniportraits are entertaining and vivid; Hoyle is a talented mimic. But as a writer he still has a weak sense of climaxes and shapely scenes. His story wanders; his set-pieces peter out. Apparently aware that he goes on too much about globalism, he says he's arrived in Kenya "to quit thinking about American companies and foreign investment." For most of us that wouldn't be hard. But the problem is not that Hoyle thinks too much about what is, after all, the topic of his show; the problem is that he never makes a discernible point. He circles his topic the way he circles the planet -- without quite arriving anywhere. Through Sept. 25 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (between 21st and 22nd streets), S.F. Tickets are $10-14; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Aug. 11.

Intimate Details. Here's how straight I am: Until Marga Gomez opened her latest show, I never knew there was a hierarchy of Gay Pride events. Gomez tells us about her career slide as a Pride MC, from St. Louis Pride to Pensacola (Fla.) Pride to Buffalo (N.Y.) Pride to (apparently rock-bottom) New Jersey Pride. Each year Gomez gets fired, and in Jersey she neglects her work in favor of a suburban single mom named Shona, the "hippest" woman there. Crass-tongued Shona smokes Parliaments, nags her daughter, has two cell phones, and talks to her ex-husband while Gomez performs certain duties in bed. The affair sounds so hideous I'll assume Gomez made the whole thing up, especially the titular "details." But it is hilarious. At first Gomez's delivery feels recited, but she builds momentum when she begins to shift into rapid-fire dialogue between her own persona and Shona's, and soon the show becomes what an audience deserves to expect from a veteran, self-described "Dyke of Darkness." If anything, Gomez doesn't know when to stop. A final scene involving a dog seems superfluous; by then the story has climaxed at least three times. Through Sept. 12 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at Mission), S.F. Tickets are $15-28; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Sept. 1.

The Lion King. How do you turn a decent cartoon about African wildlife into a lame Broadway musical? 1) Puzzle carefully about the problem of costumes and sets. Pour millions of dollars and hours of mental energy into making your actors look like lions, hyenas, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, and birds. Solve the problem brilliantly. Hire Julie Taymor to design the magnificent costumes and masks (and to direct the show). Hire Garth Fagan to choreograph elegant, exciting, Afro-Caribbean dance routines. Make sure Donald Holder lights the stage with an eloquent feeling for African distances and sunshine. In general make the show a visual feast. Then, 2) squint in confusion at the script, and 3) carve it up to make room for appalling songs by Tim Rice and Elton John. You'll have a profitable bunch of nonsense with more than one God-soaked number that sounds indistinguishable from bad Whitney Houston. The only cast member who can transcend this mess and give a stirring performance is Thandazile Soni, as Rafiki the monkey shaman, who gets to sing songs like "Nants' Ingonyama," by Lebo M, and other African chants originated by Tsidii Le Loka on Broadway. Bob Bouchard is also funny as Pumbaa the warthog, and Derek Smith plays a perfectly arrogant, sinister Scar, the pretender lion king. Otherwise the show is forced and childish. Adults looking for good theater will be happier when the performers dance instead of trying to act. Through Nov. 21 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Tickets are $26-160; call 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Feb. 11.

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