Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

The SF Playhouse is presently home to PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT by Tennessee Williams.

Award Winning Director Bill English breathes levity, relevancy and a modern spirit into what has been described as a “serious comedy.”

The result is a heart-warming romantic comedy; a toasty little holiday chestnut pulled off the glowing coals for your holiday entertainment and edification.

Williams recognized post-traumatic stress disorder back in the 1950s when much of our unsympathetic nation, frustrated over Truman’s orchestrated Korean stalemate, derided returning veterans as “wimps,” unfairly contrasting them to the victorious heroes of the decisive World War II.

Returning veterans Ralph Bates and George Haverstick, marvelously played by Johnny Moreno and Patrick Alperone, fail to be anesthetized by the burgeoning material promise and the spiritual lassitude of the Eisenhower era.

Each harbors an expectation for something larger than mediocrity and more liberating than conformity.

Each too, is unable to feign normal sexual relations with his respective spouse.

Is this Williams calling into question the existence of pure heterosexuality as he did in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, or is he ascribing the dysfunctionality to the trauma of war and male insensitivity?

Not having the expedient luxury of reaching for the triangular blue pharmaceuticals, the two veterans rightly arrive at the conclusion that sex is a sequel, not a prequel, to tenderness, intimacy and understanding.

Joe Madero, as the obtuse, blustering and menacing MR McGillicuddy, accounts for a disproportion share of the humor in this staging.

While we have distanced ourselves from the culture, mores and archaic beliefs of the 1950s, our emotional evolution has essentially remained at a standstill; the lessons of PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT could easily be just the perfect Holiday Gift for you and your loved one.

A set by the Bay Area’s premier designer is absolutely magical; given that the set sustains two ripping “earthquakes” during the show demonstrates Nina Ball’s understanding of seismic engineering.

To warm your heart this Holiday Season, without using an ounce of fossil fuel, get thee to the SF Playhouse and PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT . . . you just might get an adjustment yourself.

For tickets call 415-677-9596 or surf over to

Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Impact Theatre of Berkeley is proof that given determination, sufficient talent and resourcefulness, more can be done with a whole lot less.

Their current minimalist production of THE CHALK BOY faithfully depicts the painfully vicious nature of the social hierarchy in a high school setting.

Adolescents who have absorbed the basics of sparring and jousting within a social context from their parents often fail to gage just how much cattiness is sufficient to wound but not cause paralysis.

While it is one thing to throw a body check to thwart a competitor’s ascent up the social food chain, the check should not cause him or her to walk off the playing field, drop out of school or deny the victor a chance to witness the withdrawal, moping and depression of the vanquished.

The ground rules call for bruising; not breaking the competition.

Four high school girls—Penny Lauder, Lauren Radley, Trisha Sorensen and Breanna Stark—seem to be locked in every conceivable form competition with each other excepting the obvious: the highest GPA.

With tenuous forays into lesbian and heterosexual sex, the occult and even academics, the four girls seem to explore the boundaries and mores of their seemingly safe community.

It is safe until the title character, Chalk Boy, turns up missing.

As Alfred Hitchcock advised, "New put a creek in a murder mystery unless you plan to use it."

Mysteriously, one of Chalk Boy's fingers—one might ask if it was the violating finger—gets mailed home.

Thanks to fast routing by the U.S. Postal service, the DNA was still legible upon receipt—it was obviously not shipped during the holiday season.

Chris Quintos as Trisha makes some remarkable and credible transitions assuming different characters and personas while surfing on an unstable emotional roller coaster ride.

Excellent directing by Ben Randle keeps the various threads of the storyline from tangling in the mind of the audience.

Given the extremely low ceilings—think coal mine—lighting designer Jax Steager miraculously bends Newton’s Law of Optics and ignores the tenets of Ohm’s Law just getting light the subterranean stage.

Both the production standards and the dauntless spirit of Impact Theatre make for excellent theater, a wonderfully rustic place to eat pizza, drink beer and a reassuring glimpse of the next generation of promising thespians strutting and fretting their nascent hours upon the stage.

Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Richard Harder and the Off Broadway West Theatre Company have qualitatively ratcheted the San Francisco theater experience several notches closer to Plato’s world of ideals.

MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS is written by Athol Fugard; a South Afrikaner who is probably best known for his plays A LESSON FROM ALOES and THE BLOOD KNOT.

Fugard’s novel TSOTSI, rewritten as a screenplay, won an Academy-Award in 2005.

As any aficionado of theatre will tell you, it is not sufficient to pull a world class script off the shelf and hope that it will stand up on its own two overleafs.

As a theatre critic who has seen MASTER HAROLD in venues from London to Norfolk this production runs ahead of the pack like Sea Biscuit on the final turn.

Set in the white minority government mandated insanity of Apartheid of the 1950s, the play details how government sanctioned segregation wades into the psyches of its constituents.

Just as Jews garner international opprobrium for settling on the West Bank, blacks were precluded from occupying designated sections of Johannesburg and South Africa.

While Martin Luther King Junior had a vision for the planet, the two black servants; Willie and Sam (played superbly by Anthony Rollins-Mullens and LaMont Ridgell) have a vision for South Africa.

Their vision manifests itself in a metaphor: ballroom dancing; partners gliding in harmony across the floor never colliding or clashing with other partners; everyone enjoying the rich music of life.

The vision is shattered by the brutal reality personified by Hally; an Afrikaner whose family essentially owns Sam and Willie as well as the tea room where they work.

Ominously, the story unfolds during a thunderstorm and presaging a fundamental clash between Master Harold and the Boys.

To Fugard’s credit the audience cannot dismiss the anxious apprehension that every ounce of the dialogue is inexorably moving the action closer to the precipice and tragic cataclysm intrinsic to Apartheid.

The fine seamless acting of Rollins-Mullens, LaMont Ridgell and Adam Simpson rolls like the thunder, lubricating the slippery slope on which characters stand.

The camaraderie of the boss’s son and the employees, blacks and whites, is tenuous at best; it is held together more by what is left unsaid than by what is said.

What is left unsaid is the epic social injustice of Apartheid.

Sitting in the audience, one gets the feeling that once the play gets started nothing can stop the action from unfolding—neither black-outs, earthquakes nor sovereign defaults.

This is Star Treks’ the tractor beam.

There is not a better show is the bay area; don’t miss it.

For tickets call 800)838-3006 or