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Sunday, January 23, 2011

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By Emma KrasovThey say, there are always two plays going on – one onstage, for the public, another – between the lines, or rather, between the actors. They also say there are no actors, only actresses.
The Companion Piece, conceived by Beth Wilmurt and directed by Mark Jackson, now showing at Z Space in Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco, is part improv part unscripted play about the process of putting an act together. Which brings out the between-the-actors play. Which brings forward the two actresses vying for attention – in one scene smartly in twin baby-doll dresses. Which brings up a stage phrase in some schools used to create a crowd noise, “What to say when there’s nothing to say.”
Beth Wilmurt and Christopher Kuckenbaker perform a rather stereotypical couple of vaudeville performers trying to create a stage act – trying hard, and trying too hard, and getting it, and not getting it, and trying again, with comic but oh so real bickering, and dramatic statements, and comic reflections, all coming to an all too familiar conclusion – forget that thing called art, it’s all for your fifth-grade teacher to see that the actress is actually smart, for your parents to see that it wasn’t such a foolish idea after all, and for your homeys to rally by the billboard with your giant smiley head on it. We get it. It’s actually funny.
The counterpoint to the vaudeville duo is a solo opening performed by Jake Rodriguez who acts with so much zest, so much skill, and so much automated energy that the audience relives and relishes his entire piece second time around at the closing.
The Companion Piece runs through February 13 at Z Space, Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., San Francisco. More info at: Images by Pak Han courtesy Z Space.


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