- OTHER MEDIA
- San Francisco Values
- review by Sam Hurwitt in the The Idiolect June 23, 2011
- People seeking a slightly more grounded and recognizable portrayal
of San Francisco values (then in Tales of the City) would be advised
to wander just a few blocks south to the ever-so-humble Exit Theatre to
see No Nude Men Productions artistic director Stuart Bousels bare-bones
staging of his own play The Edenites. This reportedly semi-autobiographical
relationship comedy (which I caught in its second preview performance)
follows a group of aimless thirtysomethings in San Francisco, most of whom
are old friends from Tucson.
- The ten characters meet, chat and occasionally hook up in various combinations
in a series of very short scenes, each with a chapter title that one member
of the cast says aloud. The play is staged in the round with actors sitting
in the corners among the audience when theyre not in a scene (and
sometimes even when they are). Christmas lights are strung above the almost
bare black-box stage, and there are two white tape outlines of bodies on
the floor like a murder scene, although people usually lie there when theyre
in bed together.
- The first couple we see there isnt really a coupleboth
guys have boyfriends, but theyve been seeing each other for a while.
Hugo is in an open relationship with Xavier, whom we dont meet until
surprisingly late in the play, and the more seldom-seen Aurillo is just
saving money to leave his much older, wealthy husband, whom we dont
see at all.
- Hugos friend Chester has come visiting from Arizona, where hes
just sold his video store that couldnt compete with Netflix. Chester
spends most of his time brooding over his ex-girlfriend Imogen, a newly
successful writer who also lives in San Francisco but is pretending to
be out of town to avoid him. Because his friend is busy with his multiple
romances, Chester winds up hanging out instead with Hugos easygoing
housemate Deva, who becomes his confidante. Hollywood logic dictates that
these two would wind up together, so its refreshing that Deva isnt
attracted to Chester in that way.
- Theres a lot of upending of expectations in this play, not in
a gimmicky way but in a gently funny way that suggests that life is just
more complicated than that. Almost everybodys got issues to sort
outHugo about his inability to commit, their friend Jenny about hating
her newborn baby, et ceteraand the thorniest of these issues are
the ones that are discussed a lot without ever quite being worked through.
The question of whether Chester and Imogen are or were meant for each other,
which preoccupies Chester so much, isnt really of much interest.
Everyone tells him to move on, and youve really got to agree with
- Ryan Heberts Chester is funny just because hes so very
serious and socially awkward because of it. Kira Shaw is delightfully playful
and pixieish as the happy-go-lucky Deva, who lives like a teenager despite
being in her 30s. Kai Morrison is casually charming as Hugo, a trust fund
baby who both wants everyone to love him and not to be tied down. (Actually,
hardly anyone in the play seems to have a day job, at least not for long.)
- Ben Kruer has a certain deadpan charm as stoner dad Trent, although
he has a tendency to rush his lines. Megan Briggs is effectively understated
as Trents depressed wife Jenny, who turns all conversations to how
much she resents her newborn baby. Xanadu Bruggerss Imogen carries
herself with brittle, superficial poise rooted in insecurity.
- At first Lisa, a loud drunk chick Hugo meets in a bar, just seems obnoxious,
but as played by Kirsten Broadbear shes actually kind of awesome,
a former wallflower (from Tuscon, of course) whos reinvented herself
as a brassy, ballsy pleasure-seeker. Christopher Struett is super-swishy
as Lisas gossipy gay BFF Hamish, another latecomer to the play, whos
not just living a stereotype but owning it. Brian Martin is every inch
the patient, gentle guy as Xavier, and John Caldons Aurillo has the
slight edge of someone who just wants to do as he pleases and not take
any crap for it.
- As down-to-earth as his characters are, Bousel stages some scenes in
a stylized way to keep us from getting too comfortable. Characters pace
around each other in a circle while talking on the phone, or actors sit
side-by-side among the audience while their characters have separate conversations
with different people in different parts of the city.
- Hardly any of the threads are resolved, and somehow thats okay,
because this play is just a slice of life, and lifes like that. In
fact, the only subplot to get a real Hollywood ending in the play feels
outlandish because of it. Bousel describes the play as a stylish
piece of theatrical fluff, and in a way thats true. Its
a simple, bittersweet comedy about a group friends and lovers, but its
funny, likeable characters and sharp, sparkling dialogue make it one well
- Celeste Russi and Michelle Jasso in Juno en Victoria. Photo by William
The Edenites is only one of two plays written by Bousel onstage in San
Francisco at the moment. The other one, Juno en Victoria, is playing just
five blocks away at Stage Werx, directed by Claire Rice under the aegis
of Wily West Productions. Juno is a more ambitious work in concept: Its
a play about Heras marriage reimagined as a Victorian comedy of manners.