Seeing local theater in someone's living room

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Through Dec. 20 at rotating S.F. locations. $25; call 776-1747 or visit www.boxcartheatre.org.

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There's a definite absurdist quality to Boxcar Theatre's production of Edward Albee's The American Dream. Artistic directors Peter Matthews and Nick Olivero originally wanted to perform it in the living-room section of an IKEA store. Instead, they opted to cram four actors and 16 audience members into actual living rooms throughout San Francisco. The night I attended was at "Carol's House," and the stools were uncomfortable, elbow room was nonexistent, and the actors were practically sitting on my lap. Perhaps it's apropos staging for Albee's off-kilter absurdist drama that is an unsympathetic examination of the modern human condition, attacking complacency and artificial values. Written in 1960, Dream introduces us to a perfect American family with characters named simply Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma, but soon a nightmarish undercurrent kicks in, with allusions to a dead and mutilated son. The script feels like an awkward attempt to get at themes (cruelty, emasculation, resentment) Albee covers with much more impact in his 1962 follow-up, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Boxcar's unique staging offers audiences an inspired, voyeuristic look into family dysfunction, but fails to establish itself as a drama or comedy. This lack of cohesive tone leaves us ungrounded in Albee's absurd reality.

 
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