Where to begin with “She Stoops to Comedy,” a play I loved but could hardly hope to describe. This is a show in which a male actor plays a female actor playing a male actor, in which the characters describe their scenes rather than acting in them, in which it’s never really clear if we’re watching the actor or the actor she’s playing or the role the actor (played by the actor) is playing in Shakespeare. BRB, head exploding.
Call it avant-garde. Call it post-modern. Call it whatever you willâ€”it’s insanely funny. “She Stoops to Comedy” is one of the most creative and fun shows I’ve seen in recent memory. It doesn’t always make sense, at least not traditionally, but it comes together to form a unique theatrical experience. It’s not just wackyâ€”it’s smart, and that’s what elevates “She Stoops to Comedy” from frivolous farce to insightful satire. Excuse me, I sound like one of the characters in the show.
Let’s see if I can break this down at all. Liam Vincent stars as Alexandra Page, an actor tired of playing the same old roles. When her lover Alison Rose (Sally Clawson) is cast in a film production of “As You Like It,” Alex decides to assume the role of a male actor, Harry Samson, so that she can then assume the role of Orlando. By doing so, she can keep Alison away from the amorous Jayne Summerhouse (Amy Resnick), who has problems of her own with her ex-girlfriend Kay Fein (Amy Resnick). Yes, you read that right. There’s more to it than that, but we’ll leave it be for now.
Unsurprisingly, there are countless comic complications. But the real fun of “She Stoops to Comedy” is the way that it deconstructs the artifice of theater. You have characters commenting on their own behavior, on the script, and on the play itself. In doing so, they’re able to make fascinating statements about theater in general. Consider, for example, gay actor Simon Lanquishâ€”played by the wonderful Scott Capurroâ€”who launches into an epic spiel about the stereotypical nature of his character. It’s a searing indictment of decades of misrepresentation and cliche. Powerful stuff. Funny, too.
All of the performances are quite good. Special attention must be paid to the actors who double up. Liam Vincent is perfect as Alexandra Page … and as Harry Samson … and as Orlando. You believe him as an actor, as a lesbian, as a gay man, as a straight man, asâ€”well, whatever. And Amy Resnick is stunningly good at playing two vastly different characters, especially when they meet. You have to see it to believe it. But then, that goes for “She Stoops to Comedy” as a whole.
Photo courtesy SF Playhouse.