It Ain't Me

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Through Feb. 28. $15; 359-0144 or www.amp-sf.org.
El Teatro de la Esperanza, 2940 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F.

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"Why are things never the way you imagined them to be?" That's the big, fat, unanswerable question at the center of Claire Rice's smart new play, It Ain't Me, making its world premiere at El Teatro de la Esperanza. The question comes from Lena (Megan O'Patry), a young woman recently widowed when her husband commits suicide. In her grief, she plays the what-if game by imagining a whole range of scenarios to reinterpret the past and anticipate the future, losing herself in fantasy, speculation, and regret. Rice seems more at ease with comedy than with drama: Her dramatic scenes tend to be too long and shouty, while her comic material is often darkly, incisively hilarious (especially in a well-acted blind date scene that's a squirm-inducing triumph of its kind). The show as a whole could stand to be 20 minutes shorter, but the ending is just satisfying enough to make you forget that your attention ever drifted. Much like its protagonist, It Ain't Me needs to work through a few more iterations before it's ready for the next step — but even in the process, it's a pleasure to watch.

 
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