Silence Is Golden at The Aliens at SF Playhouse

Haynes Thigpen as KJ, Peter O'Connor as Jasper & Brian Miskell as Evan in The Aliens

Annie Baker's Obie-winning play, The Aliens is currently receiving its West Coast Premiere at the SF Playhouse.

In the town of Shirley, Vermont, also the setting for Baker's Body Awareness, recently staged at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley and Circle Mirror Transformations (which opens at Marin Theatre Company in August) hanging out by the dumpster behind the coffee shop, two young men meditate on music, philosophy and Charles Bukowski.  When a teenage employee asks them to relocate, they find the disciple they've been waiting for.  When the play opens, KJ (Haynes Thigpen) is staring blissfully into the sky for about five minutes. This is the first of the many silences in the play that speaks volumes. Each actor has them and all of them have sub-texts which are very specific.

According to Artistic Director, Bill English, Annie Baker's "ability to capture the nuances and subtleties of contemporary dialogue and the dense power of silence has made her one of the exciting new voices in American theatre."  KJ is a University of Vermont dropout, derailed by a nervous breakdown. His pal, Jasper (Peter O'Connor) is a high-school dropout, a Charles Bukowski freak who is channeling his bitterness at a failed love affair into the composition of a sub-Kerouac novel. This pair of losers who once played in a band called "The Aliens," seem super cool to Evan (Brian Miskell), the nervous high-school student who has a summer job at the shop.  His painful awkwardness apprehensive curiosity and aching need for adult acceptance are brought to life in a believable way by Miskell.  

KJ and Jasper invite Evan to a 4th of July party to be held in their grotto behind the coffee shop.  Evan, the only guest, brings brownies, sparklers and peppermint schnapps.  The casting for each role is excellent. These three actors breathe life into these three fragile young men on the fringe of society. They have the challenge of filling lengthy silences repeatedly.

Director Lila Neugebauer not only sets the production's delicate pace, but she guides her three actors to rich characterizations with her flawless direction enhanced by Bill English's realistically detailed set.  

Again to quote from Bill English, "The Aliens reminds us a little of Chekhov's hidden plot, of Beckett's minimalist word play, and of course, Pinter's tension filled pauses."  

Both of Annie Baker's plays, Body Awareness and The Aliens dwell on the nature of how we connect with each other, how we need each other, and how we express our love for each other.  

The Aliens plays through May 5 at the SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter St. (1 block off Union Square) and b/n Powell and Mason, San Francisco.

Performances are held Tuesday-Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 3 p.m.

For tickets, contact the SF Playhouse Box Office, 415-677-9596 or go online at

Coming up next at SF Playhouse will be A Behanding in Spokane by Martin McDonagh and directed by Susi Damilano from May 15-June 30, 2012.