In an article about "American Theater's Failure of Nerve" published six months ago in LA Weekly, theater critic Steven Leigh Morris condemns the contemporary stage — and the Pulitzer machine in particular — for failing to embrace unorthodox and uniquely theatrical work while boosting more easily digestible fare. Speaking of last year's Pulitzer winner by David Lindsay-Abaire, Morris writes: "The Rabbit Hole is an emblem of the kind of finely crafted, polished, entertaining, emotionally vivid, mildly thoughtful (but not too heady), palatable, and ultimately forgettable experiences that constitute most new plays on our national stages." I think this description perfectly fits the 80-minute HBO special that is The Crowd You're in With. It's a great pity, because some of Gilman's other plays, most notably The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (which the Magic produced in 2005), give us a pungent taste of the playwright's wide-ranging dramatic imagination.

Lorri Holt and Charles Shaw Robinson as Karen and Tom, a couple with no kids.
David Allen
Lorri Holt and Charles Shaw Robinson as Karen and Tom, a couple with no kids.

Details

Through Dec. 22

Tickets are $20-45; call 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.

Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D (at Marina and Buchanan), S.F.

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On second thought, maybe the term "Chekhovian" befits a play as uninspiring as The Crowd You're in With. Associating the drama with the work of another dramatist is as good a way as any to fill in a blank space. After all, it takes a truly memorable work of art to eschew comparison.

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