"Treefall": Theater Review

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Through Feb. 27 at the New Conservatory Theater, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. $24-$40; 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org.

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It's the end of the world as we know it, and three teenage boys who've formed a happenstance family don't feel fine at all. In Henry Murray's postapocalyptic doomfest directed by Ben Ranle, sunlight can kill you, foraging for abandoned canned tomatoes is your best shot at dinner, and people are scarce, hostile, or infected with a mysterious deadly virus. In this world, three boys attempt to carve meaning out of chaos by adopting traditional gender roles and daily rituals: Flynn (Evan Johnson) plays the father, August (Josh Schell) the mother, and Craig (Sal Mattos) the son. Their uneasy familial ceremonies are soon disrupted by a wayward scavenger named Bug (Corinne Robkin), the first girl they have encountered in years, and who swiftly, yet unintentionally, upends the tenuous identities they've created. The dilapidated, near-absence of a set adeptly conveys the bleakness of the play's tone. Though the writing could be sharper, Treefall's provocative confrontations mostly conquer a few overwrought lines of dialogue. I could've done without Craig's continual recitations from Romeo and Juliet, as well as his irritating ruminations with a doll, but his escapism wasn't entirely unwarranted, and the struggle to come to grips with his homosexuality heightened the tension of the already fraught norms of his all-male nuclear family. Expect nudity and violence, but also a sense of hope amid the cultural and spiritual decay.

 
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