THE AMAZING 70 YEAR HISTORY OF A SF APARTMENT IS ENGAGING IN “SAN FRANCISCO HERE I COME”
SAN FRANCISCO'S HOME FOR ORIGINAL LGBT THEATRE “LCTC” TAKES US ON A RIDE THROUGH ONE FABULOUS SF APARTMENT, IT IS A NEW IMPORTANT WORK
The walls of the apartment setting in SAN FRANCISCO HERE I COME, tell seven stories about the LGBT folks that have lived in the space dating back to 1949. The men and women at the downtown address all bond with the names on the wall of the living room they have left behind the past 70 years. The stories are important, funny, and tell the history of the LGBT community in San Francisco. Presented by the Left Coast Theatre Company now on stage at the Exit Theater Main Stage through May 7th. Founded in 2012, LCTC’s mission is to develop and produce quality LGBT theater featuring new works by both Bay Area and national playwrights as to promote diversity. No longer concentrating on the works of just gay men, Left Coast Theatre Co. aims to foster the work of all LGBT writers in the Bay Area and nationally.
“SF Here I Come” is somewhat inspired by Noel Coward's 1966 “Suite in Three Keys” that included three short stories that take place in a hotel suite in Europe. The comedy “Plaza Suite” by Neil Simon, uses the same theme. SFHIC is written and directed by a team of LCTC artists and the work is excellent and touches so many issues that we may have seen on stage in the past, but these new works bring a new voice to the some of the men and women who were the gateway to the leisurely lifestyle San Francisco celebrates and is famous for.
The seventy years begins in 1949 with “Femme Fatale,” Directed by Neil Higgins and written by Chris Maltby, a story about two men hiding who they are and dealing with the fact they have to pay off a local cop in order to be safe. Cary and Jeff are the first in this apartment. The wonderful Ryan Engstrom plays the camp queen, and local favorite Heren Patel is first rate as the questioning boy friend. Jeff’s hidden past plays into the story as we meet Detective Murdock played by the sterling Scott C Free who is the bully demanding his protection money. Patel is impressive actor dealing with the battles inside him and the innocent rage of this male friend. This first story in the apartment sets up the history in this space and it was well written. 1958 opens the next story “Stewart James” written by Terry Maloney Haley and directed by Sabrina De Mio, tells the story of two women who work in the film industry. The pleasing Suzanne Vito plays an aging actress who is reading with her stunt double Pauline played by the excellent Courtney Russell. Pauline is about to deal with a sex change and the pain of that story line in the 50’s - The older woman lets her wear some men's clothes - it is a touching and well directed by De Mio.
Ten years passes and we join Ryan Engstrom who portrays Aleisha, a drag hooker who has moved in with Frank, her hunky and dapper boyfriend Heren Patel who is a SF cop hiding his mystery life. “Coffee at Compton's” takes place in 1966 written and directed by Richard S. Sargent, his story uses the famous Compton's diner the home of the early SF Drag scene as its theme. Patel is again superb in this piece along with Enstrom, the two have great stage timing and are the highlight for the first set of apartment stories. The marvelous AJ Davenport who plays “mama” a bull dyke joins them to warn them about the danger of the Comptons raids. Sargent is an important writer and this 15 minute moment from the apartment is one the best from the first act.
“The Best Men” features two timelines: Gregory Anton and his boyfriend Mark are in 1967 -1972. Seth, Will and Derek are in 2016 and bring the names on the walls alive. Skillfully directed by Michael Sally, and written by Charles Zito's this flashback moment from the apartment focuses on relationships. Will, well performed by Dene Larson is a man who is about to marry his current lover Derek played by the accomplished Michael Conner. Wills best friend visits from NY, Seth is played by Kai Brothers and is blindsided by the news of the marriage. The story jumps back to 1967 and we see Greg be the first to add his name to the living room wall, played well by Aaron Tworek we see him add many of his lovers to the wall. The perfect Paul Renolis plays Mark, a young man he is currently dating. Director Sally is skilled at making this all work, and Brothers is satisfying as this story ends the first act. The evening runs about two hours and each clip from this historic apartment is intriguing.
The very funny “Apples and Orgies” opens the second act, written by Rita Long and directed by Maltby. Its 1992 and the apartment is now set up for a leather party, with sling and all. Lou (AJ Davenport) is a bull lesbian who rents out the space for parties and she has double booked the room. The versatile Chris Maltby plays Daddy, and Courtney Russell is Sam and she is not happy to meet the men who try to bump her out. Sabrina De Mio, Michael Conner are hilarious in this miss match party. “PS, I Love You” brings the apartment to 2014 written by Rodney Rhoda Taylor and directed by Don Hardwick, brings a serious moment to the evening as we see Alex played by Engstrom morning his lover Hank who was killed in an accident. His sister Chris, powerfully played by Erica Andracchio who wants Alex to move on. Kai Brothers plays Hanks ghost and is excellent as this story reminds us that death in a gay relationship has well passed the HIV issues.
The final scene in the apartment takes us to 2018 and we meet Zach played by local favorite Richard S. Sargent a tech engineer who has just created the perfect app. “Disruptified” is written by James A. Martin and directed by Richard Ryan and takes us into the future of the historic space. Sargent also created the production design for these plays including a window with the SF Skyline changing as the years pass. Engineer Zach intends to bring back hologram celebrities with the click of his app, but as he works out the kinks the wrong celeb marches in. The wonderful Stefin Collins appears as SF’s famous Emperor Norton, the two spar about who each other are as Zach cries about being kicked out of his home for being gay. It is possible that Zach might bring back all the ghosts from the apartment, a cause for a warm closing with the entire company.
Left Coast Theatre Company can easily boast as San Francisco's Home for Original LGBT Theatre - it spawned from a group called “Guy Writers Playwrights” and have expanded their season from one show per year to two, and made a big move downtown to the Shelton and Exit stages . They are excited to continue bringing quality theater to the community, and are always looking for new works and writers. They are TBA winners and this new work is sure to get some honors during this 2016 theatre season in San Francisco. If you have yet to discover LCTC - this current production is an excellent opportunity to see these new plays and talented company.
Left Coast Theatre Company Presents
SAN FRANCISCO HERE I COME
Production Design by Richard S. Sargent
Directed and Written by LCTC Creative Team
Through May 7th
Exit Theatre Main Stage
156 Eddy St San Francisco, Ca.
Tickets and more info at http://lctc-sf.org/
Like their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LeftCoastTheatreCompany/
Buy tickets at sfhereicome.brownpapertickets.com
Photo’s by Aaron Levy-Wolins.