Extended through June 17 at the Bannam Place Theater, 50A Bannam Place (between Union and Green), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 986-4607.
In James Faerron's beautiful set for this Encore Theater production, a crooked, two-level farmhouse at stage right juts out like the prow of a ship going nowhere, and at stage left, a ragged cornfield points its stalks straight into a starry sky. Drew Yerys' wonderful lighting enhances every mood, as does Erik Ian Walker's sound design and original music. The script, however, by Lynne Alvarez, is like a teenage girl's attempt to write like Tennessee Williams: It's appalling. World-famous pianist Justin Arn (Damon Seawell, with Van Cliburn hair) is visiting his farmland home, where Pa Thomas (John Robb) is confined to the upper level of the homestead as punishment for confessing to raping his niece Daria (Aya Cash). Ma Cynthia (Nancy Madden) putters around the house refusing to do her marital duties by rapist Pa, decrying Pa's shooting of chicken-stealing varmints, and hoping for a better life someday. Daria spends her time decorating busted umbrellas, symbolizing, no doubt, her busted hymen. It's difficult to see why anyone would mount this mock Southern Gothic claptrap full of ersatz poetry (sample line from Ma: "I was dreaming about a pair of birds with tiny, curved bones. They were magic birds."). The actors are well cast, and they emote appropriately, but they're content to skate on the surface of their characters. At play's end, when Pa finally kills that big dog that's been worryin' the hens (ya see, it wasn't Pa poor Daria needed to be worried about all these months or years or whatever), what sticks with you is Ma's earlier plaintive cry: "Must this go on and on?" Ma speaks for us all. Directed by Lisa Steindler.
Through June 11 at the Thick House, 1695 18th St. (between De Haro and Arkansas), S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 401-8081.