Becky Shaw--X Generation Angst at SF Playhouse

Max tries to break it off with Becky. (Brian Robert Burns & Lauren English).

Gina Gionfriddo's 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Becky Shaw is receiving its regional premiere at the San Francisco Playhouse.  Playwright Gina Gionfriddo says "The play is a journey of moral discovery, and the characters are people who are wrestling with their best and worst selves."

When Suzanna (Liz Sklar) sets up the unknown Becky Shaw (Lauren English) with her closest friend, Max (Brian Robert Burns), little can she forecast the seismic effect it will have on their lives.  Suzanna's charitable matchmaking leads to a catastrophic first date that ultimately causes each character in the play to re-assess their relationship with one another, and forced to clarify the future lives they envision for themselves.  This play asks to what extent Becky's desperation and neediness affects others around her.  Gionfriddo asks the following questions:  "What do you owe a desperate stranger?"   "What do you owe her when you invited her in?"  Social obligation and morality are heady points of contention.  At the heart of the play is a shrewd explanation of how difficult it can be to act charitably especially to people you don't particularly like.

For this regional premiere, San Francisco Playhouse Associate Artistic Director, Amy Glazer does a bang up job directing her talented cast. Liz Sklar gives a standout performance as Suzanna. Her acting was superb. She was ably assisted by Brian Robert Burns who plays a cocky Max, Lori Holt as Suzanna's mother Susan, who really knows how to take the stage and delivers some of the best lines in the play, Lee Dolson as Suzanna's husband Andrew who is both supportive and sympathetic, and finally the beautiful Lauren English as Becky who plays her with a blend of surface fragility along with a heart of steel.  

Bill English is an amazing set designer. The multi-location plot of Becky Shaw placed huge demands which he ably met, keeping the scene changes fluid and the action of one room unfolding as another closes. The play skips between various cities in the U.S. (New York, Boston, Providence and Richmond).  Becky Shaw is reminiscent of the plays of Henrik Ibsen, the Father of Modern Drama. Here in this play, as in Ibsen's, more and more is revealed about each character as it goes along, like peeling layers of an onion.

Do come to the San Francisco Playhouse to see Becky Shaw. This play entertains, challenges and inspires you to experience the power of live theatre.  

Becky Shaw continues through March 10, 2012.  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m.  The SF Playhouse is located at 533 Sutter Street (one block off Union Square b/n Powell and Mason).  For tickets, contact SF Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596 or go online at

Coming up next at SF Playhouse will be The Aliens by Annie Baker directed by Lila Neugebauer opening Saturday, March 24, 2012.

Flora Lynn Isaacson