REVIEW – PEAR SLICES – THE PEAR AVENUE THEATRE

Each year for the last 9 years the Pear Avenue Theatre has fostered the talents of their local playwrights guild by producing an evening of their short plays. They carefully select the plays from the submissions, provide feedback to the author, cast the plays with 8 actors in all the roles, rehearse, provide more feedback, rewrite in some cases, and finally perform these plays, all in over just a few months. This is how writers, even good ones, get better and it’s an important and challenging task that the Pear Avenue Theatre diligently takes on every year. This is what is called, Pear Slices.

The 2012 Slices selection had some of the best ideas behind the words in many years, and they had some of the best words too, but many of them still felt like they were not quite complete, just one round short of nailing it. A few suffered the Saturday Night Live syndrome which consists of a 2 minutes sketch built around a couple of good jokes, that go on 3 times longer than appropriate. Some felt as though they were 30 or 40 minute plays, with the potential for exceptionally well-developed characters and clear arcs, stuffed into 15 minute boxes, thus truncating the plot and letting the play essentially bleed out on the table. This year I genuinely saw something in all 9 plays that could have been reworked to a very respectable end result given just a bit more time and care in the revision process which in turn would have allowed actors, directors and designers to do their jobs even better. As a writer, director, and actress I can tell you, this is not an easy process. We are (all three of us types) difficult to “tell” what to do. Writing is as personally vulnerable, if not more so, than acting and add in the Bossy McBoss pants factor of a director and yes, you can see why this is quite the undertaking. The process has been refined over the years, but in the case of this year’s plays, it pains me a bit to see the theatrical limbo on stage. These plays were more than a workshop or staged reading, but seemingly less than a really vetted, full production.

That being said, structure aside, they were for the most part very entertaining. I attribute this certainly in part to the fact that this year’s selection of plays were significantly more upbeat than years past, with only three of the pieces crossing over to the dramatic. That and the 2012 Slices incarnation has one of most versatile, committed and best-suited-to-the-material casts that Pear Slices has ever had.

Undaunted by the challenge of portraying Historical figures, inanimate objects, post-apocalyptic survivors, gender-bending reanimations and (gasp) lawyers, to name just a few, this cast took even the silliest characters in the most ridiculous predicaments seriously, and that helped the audience enjoy a play that may not have been really been ready for prime time just yet. Even with the normal bumps and trips that come with an opening night, this cast delivers as an ensemble.

In general all the technical elements fell into the same category; functional, practical and minimal without bringing too much embellishment or enrichment to the pieces themselves. The set, sound, lighting, props and costumes supported rather than enhanced each play more often than not. Due to the variety of the plays and the quick changes, there are elements of this production that obviously have to remain somewhat basic and having done 9 of these now, certainly the ideas of how to keep the presentation fresh must be diminished, but I would love to see some additional innovation and creativity brought to next year’s installment. I think a more polished visual result will help audience and actors alike connect more to these pieces.

Overall, Pear Slices is a night of important theatrical shorts, heavy on laughs, with a handful of deep thoughts, some standout performances and a ton of potential. 3 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a rare night out that allows you to see the written works of your talented local community premiere 40 seats at a time. Pear Slices plays through June 3rd at the Pear Theatre in Mt. View.

**Theatre Food Pairing: One of my absolute favorite restaurants, run by my two favorite Moroccan brothers, is just down the street from The Pear on 873 Castro. Morocco’s Restaurant specializes in fantastic, inventive, healthy Moroccan cuisine that is unique, flavorful and infused with a hard-to-find hospitality. It’s a joy to eat and be served here and if you allow yourself a good 2 hours before showtime, so your experience is not rushed and you have time to try EVERYTHING on the menu, this would be a perfect place to dine prior to catching a show either at the Pear or at the Mt. View Center for Performing Arts. Choosing my favorite dishes is like picking a favorite vital organ but among them are the chicken briwatts, beet and potato salad, beef tagine, imperial cous cous, spicy cucumber salad and of course ANY of their dessert briwatts are just stunning. Pair your food with Casablanca (Moroccan beer), their homemade sangria (unlike any you’ve probably had before and perfect for a hot day) or their extensive and ever-changing wine list. If you don’t have a full two hours, just let them know you are seeing a show and are on a deadline when they seat you and they’ll be happy to accommodate. Reservations are recommended for dinner. They often have live music and will stay open late if you call and let them know you are going  to stop by for dessert and a drink after the show.

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