Based on a Totally True Story

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Through Dec. 16. Tickets are $22-34; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org.
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Oak), S.F.

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Halfway through New Conservatory Theatre's production about a young writer trying to navigate the temptation and disappointment of Hollywood, the protagonist exclaims, "I refuse to be a cliché!" Too bad he's stuck in such an overdone and tired plotline: naive scribe gets his small play optioned for a blockbuster movie, and while doing artistically degrading rewrites, ruins his love life and everything that really "matters." As the title suggests, this is an autobiographical story by New York playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who wrote last year's sharp production of The Mystery Plays at S.F. Playhouse). In real life, Aguirre-Sacasa writes for Marvel Comics (Fantastic Four and Spider-Man) and pens M. Night Shyamalan-esque plays. The unique behind-the-scenes details of plotting comic books and the specifics of an overextended writer's daily life rise above the remaining clichéd material here. The troubled relationship between the father and son also works, but the overexuberant acting style and hackneyed dialogue tend to gloss over the emotional arc of the story, leaving us with what feels like an episode of a second-rate TV show.

 
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