For her birthday, B.'s present was tickets for the two of us to attend yesterday's performance in the San Francisco run of The Play That Goes Wrong. As an old fan of Noises Off, I'm always in the market for another play on the same premise (comedy about an incompetent performance of some other play), as long as it's good. And The Play That Goes Wrong is fresh enough and with a different enough flavor from Noises Off that it worked well. We enjoyed it all the way through and laughed a lot.
Of course no cold review could convey the flavor, but I was particularly tickled by:
The actor who writes down on his palm all the hard words in his part, and mispronounces every one of them.
The gay actor struggling to get out of a scene in which his character makes out with a woman.
The obligatory extremely bad acting by crew members drafted in as emergency replacements.
The director/star's introductory speech, in which he prides himself on finding a play with a cast small enough that his company can fill it, in contrast with their earlier productions of Chekhov's Two Sisters, The Lion and the Wardrobe, and Cat.
The point at which he breaks character and yells at the audience for laughing. ("This isn't television, you know. I can see you!")
Mind, I've read grumpy reviews which criticized these same features for being tiresome, so it takes all kinds, or, rather, it doesn't. Everyone in this audience (reportedly Thursdays are particularly good nights for comedy in a stage run) enjoyed it, and the acting (the real acting, this time) was energetic and wonderfully deadpan. My only complaint is that the play-within was a country-house murder mystery, and, as with most bad mysteries (including some which fans of the genre insist are good), the plot eventually reached a point where it was no longer possible to follow nor interesting enough to try. But by that point the slapstick had reached the purely absurd, so it wouldn't have much mattered if only it had wrapped up a little faster.
This required going up to the City, and considering B's walking problems I decided to drive: though public transit would have been possible, it would still have meant a lot of trudging around. First a stop at Borderlands (most challenging parking of the trip), then a mile's drive for a long-awaited visit to the KitTea Cat Cafe, where you can purchase an hour in the cat lounge, surrounded by lounging cats which are rather used to all this attention, plus unlimited access to several pots of varietal Japanese green teas. Sipping tea while surrounded by cats is a pleasant interlude. Then dinner at a gratifyingly good Indian restaurant across the street, then a mile's drive to the show.
This was at the Golden Gate Theatre, which is superior to the more prestigious Union Square theaters in being wide and broadly built, so there's a sufficiency of seats on the ground level, instead of the only affordable choices involving peering from a high balcony down onto the tops of the actors' heads, but inferior in being located in the Tenderloin. I don't begrudge the homeless a place to hang out, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy walking through large crowds of them who are energetically doing whatever it is they do all over the sidewalk. The two block walk from the garage to the theater was more exciting than the play, and that was coming in at 7; leaving at 10 was even more interesting.
This isn't a kind of expedition we make often, but we enjoyed all of what we came for.