Entertainment » Theatre

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lost My Virginity

by Marvin Candle
Monday Nov 16, 2009
Aileen Clark in one of her many poses.
Aileen Clark in one of her many poses.  (Source:Guerrilla Rep)

Guerrilla Rep continues its process of creating art in its own unique way with How I learned to Stop Worrying and Lost my Virginity. Much like their previous success Third Eye before it, Virginity is a piece made up from interviews. And while their previous piece certainly was entertaining, Virginity follows the formula of the biographical (or in this case, autobiographical) show much more to the letter, and because of this is easier to follow, and is a much more lighthearted journey.

It certainly helps that the performer/co-author seems to be an amalgam of all the great things about performance and stand up comedy; Aileen Clark doesn't merely earn and hold on to the audience's attention, she rewards it with a wonderful groundedness that obviously comes from her actually LIVING through these can't-make-it-up events. Her ability to switch between the light and the dark is certainly something special; the stress of the performance isn't about how many characters she can perform (the program says 21; one loses count after a while), but conveying the emotions and messages behind each event in her life. In other words, don't expect Greater Tunaesque character transformations here - it's more of a hint as to who these people were in her life, the key is how these people change her into who she is today.

Virginity is an autobiographical piece, and what Ms. Clark shares with her audience doesn't seem to be edited for posterity at all. With the an air of self effacing humor that all great one person shows should keep, she shows the beautiful and ugly side of her, her family, and her friends. While the one person performances aren't new, it's always refreshing to see someone look back with a normal perspective, rather than rose colored glasses; one sees her longing as she looks at her father's empty chair, and one can relate. We also know that when she says "I'm okay", she really is. Which is certainly saying something; she had experiences before she was 16 than many people have in their entire life.

With the always good shaping hand of John Caldon as co-author, and a great eye for direction by director Claire Rice, Guerrilla Rep and AMD have teamed up to create something with a whole lot of awesome. There were vry few problems; when Ms. Clark did switch to darker times in her life, her good intensity was upstaged by words falling too quiet. In lighter times, some of her characters bled into each other a little too easily - it's obvious she wanted to share these great people with us, but the rapid shifting in characters was confusing at times. Also, unfortunately, it's about ten minutes too long to not have an intermission. But those are simply nitpicks. There is so much fun and poignancy in Virginity, its problems hardly detract from a wholly terrific evening.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Lose My Virginity plays through November 21 at the Exit Theatre Cafe, 156 Eddy, San Francisco, CA. More information can be found at the theater's website.

candle (dot) edge (at) gmail (dot) com


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