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House of Lucky 

Frank Wortham's odyssey

Wednesday, Apr 18 2001
Bravo to the Magic Theater for putting a local up-and-coming artist on its main stage. With his raw, edgy energy, solo performer Frank Wortham follows in the footsteps of the Magic's early artists (and those of its ancestors, the Blake Street Hawkeyes), including Sam Shepard and John O'Keefe. Wortham is filled with testosterone-drenched charisma. Embodying 17 characters, he first bursts out as Mark -- the drugged-out roommate of the main character, Harper Jones -- who wants America to engage in a simultaneous orgasm. Then he figuratively enters the streets of San Francisco as the dreadlocked poet Harper, taking us to several quintessential S.F. scenes: a reunion with his ex-girlfriend, his job at Baby Travel in North Beach, a drug deal, a poetry slam, a one-night stand, and a drug trip, among others. In a black T-shirt, jeans, and "Bob Dylan boots," Wortham looks hip and attractive. He seduces, infuses musicality into his sentences. He's also constantly in motion, transitioning from one character to the next with a near-trademarked spin on his heel, creating a dizzying dance mirroring the streets of the city. "I breathed breath into her spine connected to systems," he says of his one-night stand with singer "Beth Lipstick"; he knows the city just as intimately, as when he says, "On Cole Street where the right lane could only turn left." Though Wortham has been performing Lucky for nearly three years, first with Impact Theater and then at the Marsh (the first time I saw it), he keeps the language fresh. He also gauges his audience constantly to see what's working and what isn't, and adjusts his delivery accordingly -- which is what good solo performers do. He differentiates his characters remarkably well, from co-worker Garrett, a "Greenpeace neo-Buddhist pacifist activist," to hyper coke dealer Eddie and passive-aggressive ex-girlfriend Sequoia. Ultimately an homage to San Francisco -- and a look at a man struggling to find his place in it -- Lucky follows the same mythic journey as The Odyssey, but doesn't say anything new about the struggle. Harper either has to quit his slacker job or not, get away from his roommate or not. Wortham is already an engaging storyteller and performer; now he's ready to step into new ideas. -- Karen McKevitt

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Karen McKevitt


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