Arts Listings

Arts: ‘House of Lucky’ At La Vals

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday August 22, 2006

After the heavy metal overture screeches to a halt, both Frank Wortham and his one-man show, House of Lucky (ending its run this weekend), put on by Impact Theater at La Val’s Subterranean, come on with a bang. 

When the lights come up, the sole performer and author is standing onstage, bleary eyed but volatile, pouring out a salty diatribe about sex on stage, leading to an apocalypse, a national mass turn-on, “a tidal wave of pleasure, and America would come together!” 

This is followed by a dialogue out of the corners of his mouth, a new harangue against domesticity, until it becomes clear that the haranguer is the crank and booze-drenched roommate of the protagonist, a protagonist with the euphonious name of Harper Jones, on his way from The Haight to work at Baby Travel in North Beach, a post-hippie bus “experience.” 

Wortham’s more monologist than raconteur, and his spiel is narratively clear, though its route is as Byzantine as the streets of San Francisco that he verbally travels, back and forth. Besides his speed freak would-be playwright roomie (and school buddy), his tale’s decorated with characters such as his boss, Buddy Morrow, “a visionary hippie capitalist;” his ex-girlfriend Sequoia; his rock ‘n roller paramour (more power mower), femme fatale Beth Lipstick, and her evil twin trannie husband, who doses hapless Harper at the Cafe Du Chien, downstairs on Market.  

Perhaps the centerpiece of Wortham’s ramble is his drop-in at a poetry slam, featuring a snide hipster of an m.c. and Sharkey Laguna, louche reciter of “Pride Like A Lion,” whom Harper must face off with in a sudden death imprompteau haiku run-off. 

As Wortham’s material is taken from his own book, the ensuing sub-literary brouhaha is a sharp satire of what must have been his own introduction to facing down an audience bent on devouring whomever it focuses its attention on. 

That’s not the case here, as the personable performer demonstrates accomplished audience contact, ringing through the changes of scene and character in his two-day tale of losing and finding it again. There’s the requisite sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, and plenty of post-adolescent angst, portrayed, but Wortham has the easy going grace to keep it light-hearted, humorous and fun—in a word, entertaining. 

Whether clueless or remorseful, self-derogatory or just dosed, dreadlocked or shorn, Frank Wortham’s right on top of the beat, which he syncopates engagingly. 



Presented by Impact Theatre. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley. $10-$15. For more information, call 464-4468.