THE FINAL SCENE is worth seeing SHOPPING: THE MUSICAL worth the price

THE FINAL SCENE written and directed by Gene Abravaya. Spreckels and WildeCard Productions, Thick House, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco. Tickets at:

August 10 – September 4, 2011


Two years ago the Pacific Alliance Stage Company produced Gene Abravaya’s well received first full length play The Book of Matthew that reflected his experience in television as a writer on the soap opera As the World Turns. His latest opus dips back into those days in New York and he has come up with a highly entertaining The Final Scene being given a lively performance at the intimate Thick House. For that first play he had a top-notch cast and Hector Correa as director. Again he has a superb acting group but has elected to be the director while taking a small role in the cast. One wonders if his decision to direct is wise one.

The reason one might suggest another director is that the writer, being too familiar with his characters, denies himself the benefit of external input and/or variation in tone. It would have been informative to have seen the world premiere at the Sixth Street Theatre as directed by Tim Kiffen who had a starring role in The Book of Matthew. The play’s present incarnation is best described as a satirical comedy with equal parts of farcical slapstick and confused purpose.

The play’s construction is non-linear although the action takes place in one day in the filming of the final episode of soap opera The Promising Dawn that has seen better ratings. The decision has been made by the Corporate Level to bolster those ratings by killing off its haughty star actress Gretchen Manning (Jennifer Weil) in the final scene. Gretchen keeps finding ways to delay her on camera killing that is further complicated by her not too bright co-star Jeremy Slade’s (Nick Solley) outrageous behavior. Involved in the action is the stressed-out executive producer Joseph Witmore (Michael Ray Wisely), his protégé Allison (Rebekah Patti) with enough drive for success to satisfy a plethora of women attempting to climb the corporate ladder. The remainder of the cast includes the stage crew and a cameo appearance of Jeremy’s agent Milton Medthorne (Harry Duke).

A documentary crew is filming the life of Gretchen through interviews with those who have worked with her. Between interviews we move back and forth to the taping of the final scene that is absolutely hysterical with Nick Solley matching Jennifer Weil laugh for laugh with farcical slapstick and verbal jabs. First up is Joseph. His praise of Gretchen is ambivalent and forthright and he is the stabling factor in the filming of the final scene. Wisely adds dignity to that role and emanates believably true compassion. His speeches bookend the play.

Freddie Lambert as Richie the ex-con given a job by Gretchen get a spontaneous round of applause in a dynamic display when it is his time to face the documentary camera. Eric Burke playing Boseman, a camera man rescued from anonymity by Gretchen, gives heart rending speech, with cheers accompanying the applause. Rebekah Patti makes Allison a true unlikeable Machiavellian in her quest for the gold ring succeeding at all costs to reach her goals. The physical appearance of Harry Duke playing Jeremy Slade’s agent and the line “Do you play basketball?” becomes a stale joke.

There is some very fine writing and revealing insight into good and bad human behavior throughout the play and a glimpse into the world creating TV soap operas but there are too many loose ends that need wrapping up. However, the fine cast and Paul Gilger’s excellent set create an enjoyable evening.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of


SHOPPING: THE MUSICAL by Morris Bobrow. AWAT Productions at The Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street (near Union Square) in San Francisco. Saturdays at 8 PM. Open ended run into its 7TH YEAR! 415) 713-6486 Email: Web: OPEN ENDED RUN.

When visiting San Francisco tourists are have a plethora of decisions deciding what to see and do in a limited number of days. The views are spectacular, the museums plentiful, dining a gourmet buffet of choices and multiple theatrical venues. They must shop around. Of those theatrical choices, Morris Bobrow’s Shopping: The Musical should be high on the list for a Saturday evening of fun. It is a clever, tuneful satirical revue extolling the humorous joys and pitfalls of breaking out the credit card (or even paying cash) and saying “I’m going shopping.”

No one should be as talented as Bobrow who wrote the music, lyrics and skits with a wicked (not really) sense of humor and satire. He has written and directed numerous musicals; including the long running recent travel revue Are We Almost There? and his latest hit Party of Two that plays on alternate dates. Add to that talent a fine quartet of singers/actors (Chris Dwyer, Sara Hauter, Kim Larsen[is a he], and Deborah Russo), a superb pianist (Angela Dywer) and quick, colorful costume changes and the 70 minutes (without intermission) just fly by. The show covers the gamut of our shopping experiences causing spontaneous chuckles if not outright laughter. With an opening number that rhymes Holy Grail with SALE in capital letters, what else would one expect?

Expect tongue-in-cheek rhyming lyrics such as clothing/fear and loathing, models/waddles, idea/Ikea, shopping spree/bankruptcy and an occasional naughty line “Who do I have to screw to get service around here.” This line in “"Department Store Blues" addressed to the non-helpful store personnel was appreciated by the entire audience. Much of the music is derivative, what one would expect for a revue, with styles including ballads, patter and a hint of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although most of the 24 scenes are musical, the hit of the show is a slide-splitting skit of a checkout line at a supermarket as a customer delays the clerk with nonsensical but familiar banter like requesting specific change.

Everyone who sees the revue will identify with some aspect of shopping. There is even a song and dance production number as the full cast step out with Top Hats (sort of) and canes as “we shop just once a year at Costco” in the satirical "Shopping with Style." Beware of the ubiquitous “handling charges.” To the sellers “it’s like found money” and even better than “miscellaneous charges” for increasing profits. The “smug and sanctimonious” art dealers take their lumps as they “push Thomas Kinkaid.”

This is an ensemble piece and their enthusiasm is infectious as the work solo or as a group. Young Chris Dwyer has the most melodious voice and starts out the fun after the Holy Grail opening number as a concert pianist whose dreams are imploded into a job playing at Nordstroms. He is hilarious, without saying a word, standing in line behind “that” woman (Deborah Russo) in “Checking Out” as his ice cream melts finally extracting his revenge not to be revealed here. Kim Larsen demonstrates his versatility as the macho man in “Hardware Heaven” and then the awkward husband buying lingerie at Victoria’s Secret in "What Am I Doing Here?"

It is certain that the women in the audience appreciate “A Fit Fit” as Sara Hunter forages for jeans that really fit: "It’s all about the butt and not looking like a slut."

The musical leaves nothing sacred including Street Fairs, Computer buying, buying at the “Five and Dime” (a charming ballad), obsequious salesman in “Lamps” sung to an Andrew Lloyd Webber knock-off. It all leads to a rousing colorful finale with purchases in hand as they shuffle off stage.

Of Those theatrical choices, Morris Bobrow’s Shopping should be high on the list for a Saturday evening of fun. Go shopping!

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of