ANNAPURNA, the play, climbs a mountain and wins.

(Upper) Rod Gnapp as Ulysses in one of his favorite outfits--an apron (Lower) Denise Cormier as Emma confronts Rod Gnapp in the living room of the "middle of nowhere" dilapidated mobile home set of ANNAPURNA playing at the Magic Theatre. Photo by Jennifer Reiley

by Sharr White. Directed by Loretta Greco. Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123. 415-441-8822 or November 2 –December 4.

ANNAPURNA, the play, climbs a mountain and wins.

If you’re into metaphors, Shar White’s latest opus is your cup of tea. Annapurna, in the Nepalese Himalayas is considered the most dangerous mountain in the world to climb. Plus the power of poetry to heal and a character named Ulysses are the metaphors that drive the author in this taut 90 minute two-hander being given a pitch perfect production in its world premiere at the intimate Magic Theatre. On the other hand, you can forget the metaphors and become engrossed in the earthy, taut dialog/confrontation of the two characters with brilliant acting by Rod Gnapp and Denise Cormier.

White’s construction of Annapurna makes it worthy of being a model for fledgling playwrights and is a proof that Magic’s commitment to produce new, adventuresome plays is on solid ground. There is an underlying mystery that unfolds, scene by scene and line by line as we learn why his ex-wife Emma (Denise Cormier) has sought out Ulysses (Rod Gnapp) 20 years after stealing away in the night with their five year old son.

Ulysses, a published formerly respected poet, is dying and has retreated from the world living a rundown trailer parked in the remote “ass-crack” of the Rocky Mountains. With the unexpected and unwanted arrival of Emma the drama of early love and cataclysmic ending unravels. He describes his incapacitation as C.D.S. (Can’t Do Shit) yet adamantly refuses help. Emma handles his vernacular language and reticence to be helped with determined strength and is not about to, as he suggests “Get the f..k out!”

Since there is a mystery deeply ingrained in the story-line and the reason for her bolting will kick you in the gut, relaying more information would not be fair. You will have to attend the show to assuage your curiosity. It truly is a seminal production.

Speaking of the production, all the elements of great theatre are on display from the marvelous creative set by Andrew Boyce, sound design by Jake Rodriguez who aids Jason Stamberger with the music and Jacquelyn Scott’s prop design. Boyce’s set is the skeleton of a multi-room dilapidated mobile home that exudes claustrophobia yet conveys the open space Ulysses seeks in his withdrawal to the shadow of the Rockies.

Director Loretta Greco is at her best as she moves her actors within the tight confines of a single unit trailer and stresses a complete balance between Cormier and Gnapp even though Gnapp’s powerful personae could dominate the show.

This show surely will be a sellout reviving the previous fortunes of the Magic Theatre that is a landmark in San Francisco and acclaimed nationally.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of

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