AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Elaine May & Jan Mirochek
Directed by Elaine May & Jeannie Berlin
Presented by Magic Theatre
Magic Theatre
Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco / (415) 441-8822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Elaine May and Marlo Thomas are the big draws for "Moving Right Along," three one-act plays presented by Magic Theatre. May has written two of the plays and directs two, and Thomas is featured in one. The program starts with "Killing Trotsky" by Czech playwright Jan Mirochek, translated by Herbert Kotik and directed by May. It's set in Czechoslovakia where an impoverished writer, Max (Mark Rydell), decides to commit suicide after a producer, Otto (Reed Martin), rejects his latest work as too depressing and Max's girlfriend, Anna (Julia Brothers), walks out on him. His attempt to jump out of a window fails, but his landlady, Mrs. Hager (Wanda McCaddon), arrives and tries to help him. It's all rather silly, and Rydell seems too one-dimensional.

A flat performance by Rydell also hinders "On the Way," written by May and directed by her daughter, Jeannie Berlin. Rydell plays George, a wealthy, middle-aged New York businessman who is being chauffeured to the airport by Freddie (Daveed Diggs), an affable 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Along the way, the two of them talk politics and history. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of their conversation is Freddie's ignorance of history. He asks George if Hitler was a real person. Nevertheless, the two of them pass the time pleasantly, and May has written some funny, telling lines.

The evening's real rewards come in the final one-act, "George Is Dead," written and directed by May. It's something of a continuation of the previous play, for the George in the title is the George who was going to the airport so that he could go skiing in Aspen, Colo. The play is set after midnight in Carla's apartment.Her husband, Michael (Martin), is gone, having stomped out after a fight. George's wife, Doreen (Thomas), shows up because she has learned of George's death and knows Carla from when they were girls and Carla's mother was her nanny.

Doreen is a spoiled, thoughtless woman who can't cope with George's death and who just settles in for the night as Carla caters to her needs. The interplay between Brothers and Thomas is hilarious as the clueless Doreen exasperates Carla, who grows more incredulous at her behavior. Both women have great comic timing and play well off each other. Carla's mother, called the Old Woman in the program (McCaddon), shows up to help, adding to the fun. Maxon Davis, portraying a funeral director, completes the cast. The sets are by James Mulligan, lighting by Kurt Landisman, costumes by Christine Dougherty and Mark Zunino, and sound by Lindsay Jones.

This is not a wholly satisfying evening of theater because of the first two plays, but "George Is Dead" makes it worthwhile, thanks to Brothers and Thomas.

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