'She Stoops to Comedy' mixes it up at SF Playhouse
by Richard Dodds
All the stage's awhirl in She Stoops to Comedy, David Greenspan's play that borrows its title from Goldsmith, its plot from Molnar, and its conceit from Shakespeare. This mashup doesn't stop at these borrowings, playing its own mostly ingenious game of upended theatrical conventions and expectations. The 2003 offering from Greenspan, a veteran of New York's downtown theater scene, is receiving a buoyant Bay Area premiere at SF Playhouse, and features what will assuredly be recalled as one of the best performances of the year by an actress in a bifurcated role.
That would be Amy Resnick, who nails the role of the far-too-grand soap opera star slumming it in an experimental production of As You Like It. She also plays a butch archeologist, and there's a running gag that has both characters worrying that the playwright will end up including them both in the same scene. Of course, he does, and the results are a tour de force for Resnick as she plays a bedroom sex scene with herself.
Actually, calling one of Resnick's personas an archeologist is an incomplete description, for the character shifts between archeologist and lighting designer, depending on which draft of the script is operable at the moment. Theatricality openly affects stage reality as even typos become part of the equation. Or to win an upper hand in a scene, all one character has to do is announce a stage direction – as in, "She goes to the bathroom" – to affect the action.
In an openly acknowledged homage to Molnar's The Guardsman, the gender-bending (and -breaking) comedy focuses on an insecure actress, Alexandra, who schemes a reunion with her lesbian lover, Allison, by getting herself cast in the male lead of As You Like It opposite the estranged partner (who, in the Shakespeare play, is a girl who disguises herself as a boy).
To add to the convolution, the woman who is impersonating a man is, in fact, played by a man. Greenspan himself played this role, and despite its underlying female gender, the costuming makes no attempt at feminine appearance. Even so, a playful Liam Vincent finds both the femininity and masculinity, both faux and of a different sort, as the disguised Alexandra. Sally Clawson is desirable as the object of Alexandra's desires, and Cole Alexander Smith and Carly Cioffi confidently play the auteur director and his assistant who have their own affair, complicating matters. Scott Capurro sharply handles the self-pitying gay character actor who has a memorably downbeat soliloquy.
Mark Rucker's direction brings a needed clarity amid the theatrical mayhem. Yet, despite a running time of less than 90 minutes, there are scenes that run down before they run out. In As You Like It, Shakespeare not only coined the phrase "all the world's a stage," but he also gets credit for "too much of a good thing" – both which find application in She Stoops to Comedy.
She Stoops to Comedy will run at SF Playhouse through Jan. 9. Tickets are $40. Call 677-9596 or go to www.sfplayhouse.org.