Arts & Events

Eye from the Aisle: 16Th Annual BEST OF PLAYGROUND--good reason to cross the bridge

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:22:00 PM
Cathleen Riddley and Lauren English in Genevieve Jessee's SHIPS IN THE DAY
Cathleen Riddley and Lauren English in Genevieve Jessee's SHIPS IN THE DAY

The 16Th Annual BEST OF PLAYGROUND is a good reason to cross the bridge on these warm nights. PlayGround has become the “feeder” for new plays for an increasing number of major Bay Area theatres, and once a year puts on its own show, this time with seven short plays.  

There is no chance to get bored, each is excellent, and by turns, funny, poignant, and extremely well-acted and directed.  

It plays at THICK HOUSE in SF on 18th Street in the Potrero district between DeHaro and Arkansas through May 27. And I was home in Oakland by 10 o’clock. Or, if you’re young, time to get to the club just when the party is getting a glow on; these are plays for all ages.  

The productions are “theatre of the imagination”—a couple of bare chairs, a prop or two, a sign, and lots of creativity. The directors really know what they are doing in making art out of a bare space and are names you’ll recognize: Jon Tracy, Jessica Heidt, Joy Carlin, Raelle Myrick-Hodges, Tracy Ward, and Jim Kleinmann. 


The acting talent is top notch. Lauren English’s star-quality acting and Gabriel Grilli showing his ability to shape-shift into various characters are noteworthy. Michael J. Asberry, Rosie Hallet, Lisa Morse, Cathleen Riddley, Maryssa Wanlass, Anthony Williams are all evenly matched, serious talent. 

And a couple of the productions are musicals! 

To give you an idea of the diversity of the plays all in about 90 minutes with an intermission: 

Room for Rent by Mercedes Segesvary rings true and funny about the stories of all the crazy living situations the single young female in SF goes through. 

Ships in the Day by Genevieve Jesse is a touching vignette of 1943 Rosie the Riveters in the Oakland/Richmond shipyards. 

Hella Love Oakland by Robin Lynn Rodriguez marries provocative poetic rap by three white moms sandwiched in between their angst for raising their kids in the 5th highest US crime city. 

Childless by Garret Jon Groenveld is a more human and understandable retelling of Medea than Euripedes’ which explains how a mother might come to puericide. Cathleen Riddley’s powerful singing voice as Medea reaches down inside the audience and pulls out pathos. 

Meet the Breeders by Ignacio Zulueta is an LOL musical about how new parents can strike terror into an unmarried couples heart when they come to visit. 

You Eat What you Kill by Cleavon Smith is an enigmatic drama of the African-American parents’ ambivalence and disappointment at their son’s success. 

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos by Kirk Shimano as told around the lunch table at Junior High is a tale of how the Librarian took a chance.  

Also, starting next week, PlayGround will begin their FILM FESTIVAL of six short plays that have been made into films. Initial screenings have been set for TUE & WEDs May 15, May 16, May 22 and May 23 at Thick House as part of the 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival. 

For more information on the selected films and teams, read the press release 




May 3-27, 2012 

Thu-Sat at 8pm / Sun at 7pm 

Thick House 

1695 18th Street (off Arkansas Street) 

San Francisco or call 415.992.6677