Thursday, September 21, 2006
In the bowels of the Tenderloin district...
...across the street from the infamous gay porn Tea Room Theatre...
...the San Francisco franchise of the "Fringe Festival" set up camp...
...at the collection of small black boxes called the Exit Theatre.
The show I went to see, "21/One" by the Boxcar Theatre Group, was slated to take place in a Mexican bus cruising the streets of San Francisco rather than in one of the actual theatres.
My favorite detail about the Exit theatre complex was the signage on the door of their bathroom.
Usually, one is instructed not to flush various items down public lavatories, but here the problem seemed to be the opposite, so that one was urged to "Please Flush Toilet."
Groups of people were waiting outside on Eddy Street for the bus to arrive while being panhandled by the local denizens.
All attendees to the "21/One" play were issued nametags along with the option of unlimited beer and Jello shots for an extra $10.
The nametags were a brilliant touch because it helped confuse the already murky line between who were the actors and who were the audience during the following hour of a mock-bachelorette party gone amok.
This led to one of the greatest theatrical coups of my life. I was standing on the sidewalk with a very beautiful black couple named Lisa and Harold when the bus arrived from an earlier performance, and Harold darted between two cars to the bus. However, one of the empty cars had people in it and they started backing it up, nearly crushing Harold's knees in the process. Lisa and I both screamed and he escaped within an inch of serious injury.
The two of them sat behind me on the bus (which unfortunately WASN'T a Mexican bus as advertised) and looked slightly amused and slightly put-off by all the young white people's drunken foolishness which constituted the plot of the playlet as we drove through South of Market neighborhoods. About thirty minutes into the affair, Lisa turned around to the character playing the bachelorette's ex-boyfriend and started delivering scripted dialogue, and I don't think I've ever been so surprised and shocked in the theater. My fellow audience member was a brilliant plant.
More discombobulating events occurred as we pulled into a deserted parking lot and a huge animated projection with sound gave us a short history of the bachelorette's relationship with her ex.
This was followed by bits of thespian business created by actors in various locations around the city as we looked out the windows of the bus, which turned everything one saw on the streets into a potential piece of theatre.
As I stumbled off the bus, drunk from one too many Jello shots, I asked Lisa if the near-injury of Harold was real or staged, and she said, "Oh, that was very real." It was quite an amazing evening of theatre.