On a lark we saw “Three on a Party” last night at Theatre Rhinoceros (16th Street and Mission). The performance is a staging of three short stories, one each by Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams and Armistead Maupin. We left sated, having enjoyed another “only in San Francisco” experience.
Word for Word specializes in putting stories on stage, reading aloud everything the author put on paper. The collaboration with The Rhino — perhaps because of the choice of the stories — worked very well.
The unfamiliar format made the evening additionally interesting as the audience internally mulled how the words would have sounded coming from a printed page. The differences in style among the authors and the times showed up in the first-level story lines, the word choice, and the formats. Every story dealt with being gay, but the approach of the authors and the interplay with their times were unique.
I hadn’t expected one discovery: the staging of one author can be a delightful distraction while the “Word for Word” approach for another story is simply distracting.
Tennessee Williams’ rich descriptions were captivating enhancements to the conversation among the characters. Stein is Stein is witty is repetitive is Stein. The snap-paced recitation of Stein’s story (which itself gave us the modern meaning of “gay”) slapped the audience with both meaning and entertainment. Maupin work was the most accessible and personally understandable. It was fun to discover, though, that as a master of conversation, Maupin’s narrative translated least well to the stage. Whereas Williams’ asides were elaborate and engrossing, Maupin’s dialog-style made the non-conversational words sound like cluttered stage directions.
But, the experience and the difference among the acts were great fun. Even the Chronicle’s little man is clapping.
I have a conflict of interest (I do The Rhino’s website), so I’ll steer clear of an Ozdachs-rating review. But, I do recommend seeing the show. It’s different. It’s entertaining. It’s cheap (tickets are $20-$35). It’s easy to get to. It’s very San Francisco.