I love drinking beer, and I love watching plays. I usually have to elbow my way into a crowded bar in intermission to combine the two, which is far from ideal. Imagine my delight when I ran across the concept of the San Francisco Theater Pub! The beer's right there, and so is the play. It's genius!
Tonight was my first chance to sample the format, and I had a great time. The bar had a good selection, including some delicious 101 North stout, with a nice clean Radeberger lager to clean it off. The play itself was an odd duck, just ten lines, translated from the original German of Heiner Müller. They repeated it eight times with different troupes, so I think I have it down from memory:
#1 – Can I lay my heart at your feet?
#2 – Only if you don't dirty my floor.
#1 – My heart is clean.
#2 – That remains to be seen
#1 – I can't get it out.
#2 – Would you like me to help?
#1 – Only if it's not too much trouble.
#2 – It will be my pleasure… I can't get it out either. I'll operate! What else is my pocket knife for? Persevere, don't despair. We have it. It's a brick. Your heart is a brick.
#1 – But it only throbs for you.
Everyone had a good time interpreting it with a five or ten minute performance each. Here's what I remember from each of them:
A cleaning lady and a client, with #1 silent and unwrapping the words from her body, and scrawling the final line on the window of the pub as she left. There was some strong physical comedy, it had obviously been well thought out.
A tango-dancing pair of mute ghosts, who grabbed two audience members and gave them cue card with lines to read as they snapped their fingers. The mimed direction aimed at the hapless audience members was a highlight, especially when they forced one of them to re-read his line with 'more balls'.
One pair of actors who set out to direct two volunteers from the audience. They went through a whole dress-rehearsal, notes, and preview performance with the couple, and both the volunteers threw themselves into the roles.
A country singer versus an opera singer, up against a lady with some swish moves, all doing their lines in rounds, gradually moving to a climax on the final line. The sheer power of the voices together was remarkable.
A boy band version, played by two girls in skater pants doing synchronized dance moves and lip-syncing to a cheesy track in-between their lines. It was surprisingly moving, with some great acting.
A strange accordion player up against a burlesque lady with a power drill and a latin lover. The instrument came in handy, it became part of the conversation.
Three girls who had a well-rounded dance routine, and some film-score music to run the lines against. The coordination and thoughtfulness of the numbers they performed was impressive.
A pre-recorded silent movie version with some impressive acrobatics, recorded in the bar during the day when it was empty. They did a good job with a screen that they set up to look like a thought bubble from one of the actors who was slumped on the bar.
I was never bored! Despite a mime density that would normally have me running screaming from a venue, the evening was very entertaining. Everyone in the audience was very engaged, though I forgot my first rule and ended up in the splash zone in my position at the bar. The players did a great job working in a very limited space, and did some very imaginative work with the strange shapes they had to play with. Nobody was taking themselves too seriously but the actors had obviously put some serious effort in, and it paid off in some touching performances of a very difficult work. I'm looking forward to making it there again for the Taming of the Shrew next month. It will be challenging since misogyny's the backbone of the plot, but I'm confident they can pull it off intelligently!