San Francisco Bay Times Review!
|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.