SLIPPING at NCTC is overly ambitious

L to R: Ben Ismail (Jake) and Evan Johnson (Eli). Jake and Eli build a friendship in NCTC's Slipping by Daniel Talbott.

SLIPPING: Drama by Daniel Talbott, directed by Andrew Nance. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., S.F. (415) 861-8972, or online at

Closes July 1, 2012.

SLIPPING at NCTC is overly ambitious.

Seeing Slipping in the intimate Walker Theater at the New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) brought to mind a truism taught by the now deceased SF State Drama Professor White (nee Weis) that a play’s title should attract an audience. Daniel Talbot’s play, written early in his career, apparently was not a student of Professor White since the word “slipping” is a vague reference to slipping off a cliff at Lands End in San Francisco. However it is significant to the plot but unless you are paying close attention to the sometimes banal dialog you will miss the reference. In conjunction with the title, the production team has created an androgynous monochromatic set with three slopping monoliths adding emphasis to the title.

To be fair to the neophyte author, Eli (Evan Johnson) the 18 year old protagonist is inexorably “slipping” into a physical and emotional morass. At the opening of the play he has already slipped having been in an abusive relationship with closeted Chris (Fernando Navales). To add to his emotional upheaval Eli has developed the masochistic practice of cutting himself and is antagonistic with his overly attentive mother Jan (Stacy Thunes) who moves him from San Francisco to Iowa where his green dyed Mohawk haircut and solo attitude is more than a bit out of place.

The play is nonlinear written in underdeveloped short scenes, interspersed with monologs, with projections on the center monolithic slope indicating time and place of the action. In Iowa 17 year old Jake, shortstop on the High School baseball team, gives up his girl friend and seduces a reluctant Eli. That relationship blossoms and then degenerates as the emotionally fractured Eli “slides” from being abused to the abuser and “slipping” back into practice of cutting.

Into this mix of tortured emotions, Author Talbot takes on the problems of father-son relations, parental responsibility, teenage love and social non-acceptance for being different. Evan Johnson is much too old to play Eli and like the set gives a monochromatic performance. Stacy Hunes handles the role of unappreciated mother without distinction but as written is only a sounding board for Eli. Benjamin T. Ismail as the genial Jake is perfect for the part but must share accolades with Fernando Navales’ strong performance as the bullying Chris.

In defense of Andrew Nance’s lackluster direction Slipping is much too ambitious a venture to compress into a 75 minute script without intermission. There is brief nudity.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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