Friday, January 16, 2009

T.I.C. (trenchcoat in common)

Encore Theatre Company
T.I.C. (trenchcoat in common)
a world premiere play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Thursday, January 8
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center

This crowded & hilarious 100 minute play starts with a teenage blogger. Out of anger & boredom, she reports the behavior of her colorful neighbors, all of them easily recognizable San Francisco caricatures. The high-tech is just a device to pull together a story that is equal parts Rear Window, Tales of the City & sketch comedy. At first I kept trying to figure out what it was really supposed to be about. The alienating effect of the Web? Voyeurism? The gap between our public & private selves? But the plot kept taking so many surprising & ridiculous turns that I gave up & just let myself keep laughing.

The show is really about inappropriate humor & crazy schtick. Very little is off limits: insecure hipsters, gay fathers, pot-smoking hippies, flashers, ax murderers & domestic terrorists all get in on the act. A story arc involving the conflict between the teenage girl & her unlikely father provides just enough emotional weight to ground the play & keep it from becoming just a series of skits.

The cast has a lot of fun. Rebecca White plays a classic disaffected teenager & is at her funniest when she is reacting to the intolerable behavior of the adults around here. I liked Michael Shipley's middle-aged gay preppy, earnest & trying way too hard. I found the character embarrassingly realistic. Liam Vincent gives a delicious performance as the creepily secure exhibitionist Terrence. He made me feel uncomfortable for liking the character so much. I was also impressed by the elaborate sound design that represents computer noises & events going on in the virtual world.

A lot of funny & unexpected revelations occur in these 100 minutes. At times the audience is laughing throughout an entire scene. I went in not knowing much about what was going to happen next. I think this is a good way to enjoy it.

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