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49 Miles 

A new play explores the San Francisco characters encountered along the city's famed scenic route

Wednesday, Oct 24 2001
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Trevor Allen's new play, like Beach Blanket Babylon, is a musical tour of San Francisco. Unlike BBB, there isn't any singing. This two-hour-plus chain of likely or familiar S.F. scenes follows every inch of the 49 Mile Drive and contrasts personalities you might find along the way. There's the Chinatown native and the Beat Poet, the Burning Man type and the Affluent Art Collector, the Materialistic Yuppie Snob and her Street Chick contemporary (both talking trash about men). They come and go like vacation slides. They also trade lines in fuguelike duets that make their stories hard to follow. The declared idea is to put a symphony of voices onstage, some -- but not all -- lifted straight from notes Allen took on his own meander through the city. The scenes that seem most like straight transcription work well as isolated cameos: Mark Phillips is a lively elephant keeper at the zoo, clarifying the various forms of animal shit. Charles Blackburn plays a vivid retarded man waiting for the bus, and Linda Jones is excellent as a nerdish, excitable authoress in half-glasses and a shawl, giving a talk about astrophysics. But the script suffers from too many San Francisco clichés and not enough story. A play needs fleshed-out characters, drama -- not just melopoeia, the "melody" Pound identified as one quality of good writing -- and 49 Miles has none.

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