‘THE SONG OF SUMMER’ A FAVORITE “EARWORM” AND THE BEST POP COMEDY FOR SF PLAYHOUSE'S LIVE SEASON
LAUREN YEE'S POLISHED INSIGHT AND SURPRISES NEVER FAIL, THIS IS A GEM OF A SONG
The San Francisco Playhouse superb production of Lauren Yee’s comedy THE SONG OF SUMMER is now live on stage or stream through August 14th. Directed by Bill English, he said “Lauren offers a complex, nuanced view of her characters and encourages us all to look within and be true to ourselves. I can think of no better way to usher in the summer of 2021 than with The Song of Summer, the uplifting comedy by Lauren Yee, one of our favorite playwrights.”
Yee’s “The Song of Summer,” is all about hometown roots and a missed romance. It is a 90 minute romp of a pop star's quest to find his meaning. The story unfolds on a revolving set designed by English with a solid cast; Anne Darragh*, Monica Ho*, Jeremy Kahn* and Reggie D. White*. This fairy tale explores an insecure rock star who takes a cab halfway across the country to his hometown to pay a visit to his boyhood past.
A rom com romance between a resistant singer and an ex high school girlfriend plays like a classic earworm you can’t shake. “Girl, I wanna empower you to make a bad decision,” Robbie played by the accomplished Jeremy Kahn sings as he has a meltdown on stage. He heads home to bond with his former music teacher Mrs. C played by the wonderful Anne Darragh. Mrs. C's adopted Asian daughter Tina has been a big influence in Robbie’s life. The riveting Monica Ho plays Tina, who opens the story in a sweet flashback. Tina’s got more than a bit of an edge, and Ho is always terrific in the way she becomes a teen and a 28 year old forceful woman. As Robbie and Tina re-visit, they fight and argue as they did when they were 16 and do the same as adults. Robbie is reminded he is just a “4” and Tina has always been an “8”.
The Summer Olympics are referenced - I thought this could be a current topic since the Tokyo games are live as I watched this play. But the Summer games are used as a reference. It's a year in which the Summer Olympics, and 12 years earlier, when Robbie and Tina were in high school. Local favorite Reggie D. White plays Robbie’s aggressive agent Joe, who was once a member of a popular black quartet and knows the dark side of the music business. He has set Rob on his path to star status with his current hit. Fans accuse Robbie of plagiarism and “sexist” lyrics that sets off his nervous breakdown to run home.
Yee’s characters are always complicated with very human moments. Robbie is his own harshest critic. Kahn in the role of hesitant Rockstar is perfectly cast, mixing his performance with a fear of having his dream destroyed. The accusation of plagiarism hangs over his song of the season like a summer swamp. Monica Ho’s performance is beautifully realized. As a busy teenager with a desire to leave Pottsville to become a doctor who, for reasons unknown, never left town. The two are a perfect match, each finding the power and passion in every line and subtext of Yee’s script.
Director Bill English's stylish production moves beautifully between Rob's lunch with his manager at a Waffle House and re-visiting his music teacher's hoarder living room. English also designed the keen set that has to flow easily between the restaurant and a cluttered living room. The lighting by Stephanie Anne Johnson is dramatic as the show opens with a backstage view of Rob's concert. Then later the lighting is impressive suggesting the many flashbacks. Video producer Wolfgang Lancelot Wachalovsky's opening concert montage worked well with Teddy Hulsker's projections. There is some limited live music; Rob plays the piano and acoustic guitar and Tina almost sings the entire song that moves the plot under Elton Bradman’s perfect sound design. The costumes by Stephanie Dittbern are highlighted by Robbie's sporty concert jacket and Joe’s high end kicks - that upstages his every entrance.
The play is not about a confused pop star, it’s about a boy-man, the lost kid who wants to find himself. Yee without overstating it, gives us a glimpse of that child in all of us. Her humor is clever, her dialogue authentic. In the final scene a boy almost becomes a man, it brought me to tears and only made me eager to see Yee’s next play. “The Song of Summer” runs through August 14th, 2021, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:00 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 3:00 p.m. The show is also available to be streamed. Tickets are $15-$100, available at www.sfplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 415-677-9596.
San Francisco Playhouse
Presents in-person performances
THE SONG OF SUMMER
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Bill English
The cast features
Anne Darragh*, Monica Ho*, Jeremy Kahn*
and Reggie D. White*
90 minutes no intermission
July 24th – August 14th, 2021
On-demand video production available to view
July 24 – August 14, 2021
Special appearances by Riley Cheng and Riley Hashimoto