Yesterday Peter and I went to see 9 new short plays at our favorite Bay Area theatre, The Pear. We both love seeing new original work, but the current state of the arts left me in some trepidation. Often, new staged works seem to be chosen merely to impress the producer’s peers, not a more general audience: what else could justify the socialist chest-pounding or the too-precious navel-gazing that’s shoved onto Bay Area theatre fans. But I reminded myself that this was The Pear, after all, a theatre that revives classic plays, and whose newer plays tend to be known for their imaginativeness, not political pretentiousness. Peter also pointed out that in a small space like the Pear’s, if there was a godawful play, our boos would be quite audible.
As it turns out, The Pear kept true to its personality, and the plays that were presented, as well as the Noises Off style play that wrapped around them all, were delightful. I’d never gone to this kind of play presentation before, but since it was done with an ensemble of actors, who played various rolls, I think I can best describe it like an episode of Saturday Night Live, if Saturday Night Live was at all intelligent, and funnier than it currently is. Since we saw the closing performance of the plays, I don’t have to worry about any spoilers.
Peter and I both particularly loved The Alpha Bindleman and Virtue L Sex. The Alpha Bindleman was a sketch where the top employee for a failing company is called in to the CEO’s office. The CEO then informs Bindleman (the employee) that the board has come up with an “out of the box” solution to turn the company around: they’re going to kill Bindleman, grind up his bones, and turn them into bread which will be fed to the rest of the employees. They can’t have a company of Bindlemans, but they can put a little bit of Bindleman into every employee. Two clueless people from the human resources department enter, and more hilarity ensues.
In Virtue L Sex, a barker who seems to have travelled out of Vivienne Westwood’s Sex shop and into the future, entices “LDs” to buy the services of sex robots. After she gets two punters to go in, a real prostitute appears, picketing robot sex because it’s hurting her business. After the intermission, we found out that the playwright was sitting just a few seats down from us, so we asked him what “LD” stood for, because the barker teased the men so shamelessly for looking like LDs. We know now, but it’s a secret–can you think what it might mean?
Other plays were variously thoughtful, managing to light-heartedly comment on the various beliefs people have, from environmental consciousness to Intelligent Design, and how they push one another around, but never really change. The only real clunker in my opinion was Appetite for Daffodills, about a rural couple packed up and ready to move to LA who abruptly decide to stay put. They were so flaky, they were annoying: these are the same people who say “Where do you want to eat dinner?” “Oh, I don’t know, where do you want to eat dinner?” ad nauseum. It felt like a Playwriting 101 exercise. Peter didn’t like Cobalt 60, which was about a dying patient and a nurse, and their thoughts, played by separate actors. It was a little precious, because the patient was also clearly suffering from high-falutin’ language disease, but when it all came together in the end, I (unlike Peter) thought it was rather poignant.
So, in short, it was exciting to see new, original works, and knowing that they came from local up-and-coming playwrights added a dimension that seeing an established play couldn’t have had.