The Performant: The fast and the furious


FURY Factory turns four

Summertime is festival time in the city, and the streets will stay lively from now to Halloween, barring acts of god/s or unforeseen War on Fun skirmishes. But considering the typical bluster of an average summer day in San Francisco, it’s a relief that a few of our festivals can be enjoyed indoors. 

One example: FURY Factory, a three-week celebration of ensemble theatre hosted by San Francisco’s own foolsFURY Theater that provides the perfect excuse to avoid the elements, located in the comparable warmth of Project Artaud's four theatre spaces. An eclectic lineup of 31 ensemble companies from around the country, FURY Factory includes talkbacks, workshops, and a forum for discussing excellence in theatre. 

But for most oddiences, the play’s the thing, and there is indeed a plethora of performances to choose from, some of which are even being streamed live on “New Play TV."

On Saturday afternoon a cluster of kids and young-at-hearts gathered in The Jewish Theatre to watch a light-hearted collaborative effort between two San Francisco-based ensembles -- Sweet Can Productions and Coventry and Kaluza – called “Chef Mulchini’s Kitchen”. A buoyant public service announcement regarding the four “R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot) as presented by a quartet of capable clowns, “Kitchen” is a visually appealing romp which includes an appearance by a rapping green trash bin, puppet produce, and acrobatics. 

A nerd (Ross Travis, who also plays a brash pentathlete), a robot (Natasha Kaluza), a flirtatious neighbor (Kerri Kresinski), and that mustachioed punster, Chef Mulchini himself (Jamie Coventry), approach the topic of waste reduction with the wide-eyed earnestness of a Sesame Street sketch. You’re more likely to catch the next Mulchini performance at a public grade school than in a private theatre, but the performers themselves can be found in grown-up shows throughout the year, and are well worth watching on any stage.

One of the most buzzed-about events in the festival by far has been the West Coast premiere of Pig Iron’s Obie-winning “Chekov Lizardbrain,” which played for a single sold-out weekend at Z Space. An uncomfortably wry prologue narrated by an ostensibly imaginary occupant of protagonist Dmitri’s mind (both played by James Sugg) opens the show. 

The narrator “Chekov Lizardbrain” wears an ostentatious top hat and tailcoat, but his reptilian gestures and labored mumble undermine the graciousness such attire is meant to convey. His host body, Dmitri, is not much better off. An Aspergian botanist, he is socially awkward to the point of painful, and his interactions with three brothers whose house he is buying take a surreal turn as he recasts their conversations in the context of a Chekovian melodrama. 

The brothers, played by Dito van Reigersberg, Geoff Sobelle, and Quinn Bauriedel, first appear onstage in formal top hats, suit vests, and turn-of-the-century long underwear, underscoring their fantasy-based roles. Peeks behind the stylish red curtain provide glimpses of the murky swamp of Dmitri’s brain, where an initially light-hearted game of “lost and alone” leaves him stranded, inside and out. Though the “rules” of Chekov presented earlier in the show specify that tragedy should happen “offstage,” the melancholy finale in which Dmitri succumbs entirely to his “lizard brain” is not a particularly uplifting one. But the neocortex can sense the humanity in it.


FURY Factory 2011

Through June 26

Project Artuad

499 Alabama, SF

(415) 685-3665



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