Let sleeping dogs lie
Dangerous Corner marked a significant turn in literary life of its author, J. B. Priestley, and more broadly, in the evolution of topic matter in theater. After a rough start, the play had a long run in its 1932 London premiere and succeeded abroad. Priestley became a prominent playwright of the decade. The play was noted for broaching the topics of homosexuality and recreational drugs in an unprecedented manner – all this in the context of affairs and other betrayals. SF City Theatre Company offers a low budget production of this interesting play, which has merit but seems that it could use a couple more rehearsals.
The parlor room drama concerns family members associated with a publishing firm and their close friends. The closely bound group is ostensibly successful and happy. A looming cloud is that Martin, brother of the senior partner in the firm, Robert, died of a gunshot wound a year earlier. This occurred shortly after a small embezzlement at the firm, and connected dots suggested that Martin stole the money and committed suicide out of guilt.
At a social gathering of the friends and family, interest centers on a cigarette box that Robert’s wife, Freda, had given to Martin on the very day of his death. However, close friend, Olwen, remembers a timeline of that day at variance with Freda’s rendering. But Robert is unconvinced by Olwen’s yielding to Freda’s version.
In contradiction to his later assertion that illusions help us to live, Robert doggedly pursues the truth, leading to a stream of revelations involving the whole gathering. Was the cavalier Martin as deserving of affection as it had seemed? Who did he really love? Had everyone told all about their actions on the day of the death? Were the marriages in the group as solid as they appeared? Were there illicit passions or passions unrequited? The drama is interesting for its twists and turns; for its exposing illusions; and for developing the notion that one small, seemingly innocuous incident can lead to profound and far reaching consequences.
The production is directed by David Acevedo, who stages the action well – briskly moving through the dialogue and balancing movement around the stage. The set design is appealing, reflecting appropriate period furnishing styles and using the space well. The ladies are well outfitted in stylish cocktail dresses and the gents in tuxedos, enhancing the feel of class and period.
Collectively, the actors are most effective in expressing intense emotions such as shouting, laughing, and crying, but they are less convincing at normal conversation. Each actor has moments of stronger performance, but there is more stumbling through lines than is expected. Hopefully, better overall delivery and confidence will grow through the run. Deborah Joves as Freda and Mary Waterfield as Olwen give the better performances. Lucas Hoag as Charles Stanton, the non-family-member partner in the firm, shows some panache and promise.
Dangerous Corner is produced by SF City Theatre and is playing at the Royce Gallery (which, incidentally offers free wine, coffee, and little tidbits at each performance in the house, whatever company is producing!), 2901 Mariposa St., in San Francisco through January 24. Tickets are available at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com.
San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
American Theatre Critics Association