"Three Viewings": Theater Review


Through Jan. 29 at the Presidio Chapel, 130 Fisher, S.F. $15-$45; www.theatreanew.com.

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You walk into a chapel, you sit, and when the lights go out, you listen to three grieving people — one at a time — tell you how the person they loved most died and what they did to go on afterward. It's a powerful way to spend an evening, especially since Three Viewings, a series of interlocking monologues produced by Theatre Anew, is at its best when its protagonists are at their worst — their most lost, their most uncertain, their most confused before the undeniable silence of the grave. Jeffrey Hatcher's script is unconvincing when describing people's ordinary lives, but his characters grab you by the throat when they move out of their comfort zones. Diane Bailey (who also directed) is a standout in the final monologue, and the setting — the play takes place in the beautiful Presidio Chapel — is better than any set design could be. Three Viewings is short, about 90 minutes, and few moments are wasted. The characters may not know how to make the most of their time on earth, but the show — the only thing that must go on — knows exactly what it's doing.

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Jeffrey Hatcher’s literary intensity invariably is rooted in the psychic pain of his characters. That trademark style is manifestly on display in this tripartite exploration of loss and longing.

As a series of demanding monologues, it’s imperative that the actors possess consummate acting skill. They must be able to grasp the intent behind the words to give them the requisite depth of meaning. Thankfully, it’s readily apparent that each cast member was chosen for more than their superb vocal intonation.

Notwithstanding the somber theme of ultimate loss, Hatcher doesn’t forsake the opportunity to entertain us and have fun along the way. The key, then, is for the actor to practice restraint and deliver the lines for all they’re worth without anticipating the surprising denouement.

Alas, patience is a virtue that somehow got lost in translation. The benefits of a lingered phrase or timely pause cannot be overstated. They give the audience a chance to digest the full impact of what’s been said. Too often the actors appeared a bit too eager to get to the climax.

I hasten to conclude, however, that despite the dubious tempo, the show is mostly successful and the payoff(s) truly rewarding. And the ingenious idea of utilizing an actual chapel as the play’s setting wonderfully enhances the overall effect. I recommend it highly.


Thanks for your comment about the show....and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Are you a reviewer? I'm the scenic designer on the show and I ran the music. The second and third monologues never failed to make me cry as I lay backstage waiting for my cue. I only wish more people had read about the play and the review as to garner more audience. This production was the antithesis to "Spiderman"....we managed to tell a story and make the audience feel something without spending $65mil.

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