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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

A sweet theatrical treat at The Pear A sweet theatrical treat at The Pear (July 02, 2004)

Season finale is funny, thought-provoking

By David Herbert

The Pear Avenue Theatre is small to be sure. The 40-seat playhouse is so tiny that to go to the bathroom during a play you must cross the stage, and when you finally get there, you find a sign above the toilet requesting that you not flush during the performance.

But the theater's size is also its strength, and the intimate environment of The Pear is the perfect setting for Ian Walker's outstanding new comedy "A Beautiful Home for the Incurable," directed by Jeanie Forte.

The play, the final one of The Pear's second season, stars four friends with uncommon mental ailments who comprise a sort of support group, leaning on one another for advice and help. When agoraphobic Bunny (Eric Rice) reveals that his identity has been stolen on the Internet and the thief has made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars, the group joins forces to find the culprit.

The first and last scenes are, without a doubt, the funniest parts of the play. The characters do not stand well on their own, but when the entire ensemble is together, the result is nothing less than side-splitting. Bunny's frantic manner of speech and choppy gesturing is amusing, Temple (Michael Sofaer) has an almost humorous annoying quality and Madilyn (Shannon Stowe) has some great comedic moments, but Nick (Bill D'Agostino) and Lucy (Kristen Lo) steal the show. The dry, sarcastic wit of D'Agostino (a writer at the Voice's sister paper, the Palo Alto Weekly) contrasts perfectly with bubbly and spirited Lo.

Yet there is another, more tender, sweet side to this story. The play is only about mental illness and identity theft on the surface; beneath this exterior you find questions about the definition of normal, the powerlessness of those who find themselves on the fringes of society, and the struggles we all face with self-identity.

Ultimately, I left the theater with a greater appreciation for the difficulties people outside the mainstream face every day, be it mental, political or economic. And clocking in at under two hours, including a 15-minute intermission, "A Beautiful Home for the Incurable" manages to provoke interesting questions without losing the audience's attention. The clever ending is sure to leave you smiling and looking forward to The Pear's next season.

E-mail David Herbert at [email protected]

Information

What: "A Beautiful Home for the Incurable," a new play by Bay Area playwright Ian Walker.

Where: The Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear Avenue, Unit K

When: Show times are July 1-3, July 8-10 at 8 p.m., and July 11 at 2 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $15 for Thursday and Sunday performances, $20 for Friday and Saturday performances. $5 discounts on all ticket prices for students and seniors.

Info: Call 254-1148 or visit www.thepear.org.


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