Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
by Marvin Candle
Monday Nov 16, 2009
Guerrilla Rep continues its process of creating art in its own unique way withHow I learned to Stop Worrying and Lost my Virginity. Much like their previous success Third Eye before it, Virginity is a piece made up from interviews. And while their previous piece certainly was entertaining, Virginity follows the formula of the biographical (or in this case, autobiographical) show much more to the letter, and because of this is easier to follow, and is a much more lighthearted journey.
It certainly helps that the performer/co-author seems to be an amalgam of all the great things about performance and stand up comedy; Aileen Clark doesn’t merely earn and hold on to the audience’s attention, she rewards it with a wonderful groundedness that obviously comes from her actually LIVING through these can’t-make-it-up events. Her ability to switch between the light and the dark is certainly something special; the stress of the performance isn’t about how many characters she can perform (the program says 21; one loses count after a while), but conveying the emotions and messages behind each event in her life. In other words, don’t expect Greater Tunaesque character transformations here - it’s more of a hint as to who these people were in her life, the key is how these people change her into who she is today.
Virginity is an autobiographical piece, and what Ms. Clark shares with her audience doesn’t seem to be edited for posterity at all. With the an air of self effacing humor that all great one person shows should keep, she shows the beautiful and ugly side of her, her family, and her friends. While the one person performances aren’t new, it’s always refreshing to see someone look back with a normal perspective, rather than rose colored glasses; one sees her longing as she looks at her father’s empty chair, and one can relate. We also know that when she says "I’m okay", she really is. Which is certainly saying something; she had experiences before she was 16 than many people have in their entire life.
With the always good shaping hand of John Caldon as co-author, and a great eye for direction by director Claire Rice, Guerrilla Rep and AMD have teamed up to create something with a whole lot of awesome. There were vry few problems; when Ms. Clark did switch to darker times in her life, her good intensity was upstaged by words falling too quiet. In lighter times, some of her characters bled into each other a little too easily - it’s obvious she wanted to share these great people with us, but the rapid shifting in characters was confusing at times. Also, unfortunately, it’s about ten minutes too long to not have an intermission. But those are simply nitpicks. There is so much fun and poignancy in Virginity, its problems hardly detract from a wholly terrific evening.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Lose My Virginity plays through November 21 at the Exit Theatre Cafe, 156 Eddy, San Francisco, CA. More information can be found at the theater’s website
Thursday, November 12, 2009
|By Linda Ayres-Frederick|
Published: November 12, 2009
San Francisco Bay Times
Aileen Clark does not consider herself to be a playwright, but she certainly knows how to tell a rich story. Produced by Guerrilla Rep and Ann Marie Productions, she does so with the help of co-writer John Caldon in How I Stopped Worrying and Lost My Virginity. Premiering at the EXIT Theatre Café, Ms. Clark takes on the 21 personae of her childhood and adolescence as she recounts in Spanish, Portuguese and English her unique tri-cultural, starry-eyed life.
While the opening is relegated to three taped answering-machine messages from her Hispanic grandmother trying to reach her, once Clark enters, the show comes to life. Her parents are a feisty combo. Her beautiful, Latin-tempered, devout Catholic, Nicaraguan mother meets her handsome-but-reserved Scottish father in the U.S., but the couple eventually settles in Brazil. Her father travels frequently for business, leaving Aileen as an only child to bond closely with her mother and enjoy the avid attention and solitude their comfortable life offers. Her mother is the perfect role model of a devoted wife preparing delicious meals whenever her husband returns. Life proceeds with occasional visits from her mother’s family members, all of whom adore the bright girl Aileen is becoming. As she grows older, Aileen’s challenges are those pre-adolescents endure worldwide — crushes on one pal or another and the daily embarrassments of school life such as being called “fat.” When she hears that the worst offender is being transferred to another city, Aileen looks forward to the “best year of her life.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and in this case, it’s paved with expectations as well! That very year, Aileen’s mother becomes seriously ill. Her father brings the family to San Francisco, where hopes of a cure for his wife seem better. Surrounded by her mother’s family during the prolonged treatment, preteen Aileen is left out of the communication loop and never told what is really going on until her mother succumbs to the cancer.
At the wake one of Aileen’s cousins shares her “gift” with Aileen. The gift is the promise of enduring love all wrapped up in losing one’s virginity to the “man of one’s dreams.” Through trial and much error, a now buxom Aileen eventually realizes the myth of her cousin’s “gift.” She barrels through two years of absolute rebellion in which she discovers her father’s emotional betrayal of her; has a fist fight with the same homunculus of a woman her father hires to take care of her; moves to Nicaragua to live with her Tia Ileana — a second true mother — and continues to endure the challenges of being a 21-year-old virgin in a world of easily granted sexual encounters.
Directed by Claire Rice, Ms. Clark is a dynamo of energy, switching in an instant from one distinct character, mood, or language with ease. In 90 short minutes, she brings humor, heart and substance to this more than coming of age story. “If,” as she says, “you came to see this show expecting tons of stories about sex and men and all that, you are highly mistaken.” What she delivers is much, much more!
How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Lost my Virginity continues (Thursdays to Saturdays at 8:30pm) until Nov. 21 at the Exit Café, 156 Eddy Street, San Fransicso. For tickets ($20) call (800) 838-3006 or at brownpapertickets.com.