Maya Lawson plays the inhabitants of a small Ohio town in the ghost story The K of D, the one-woman show that opens the new Magic Theatre season. Photos by www.DavidAllenStudio.com
Magic season opens with chilling solo show `K of D’
In the world of new plays, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to come up with that prince of a hit.
That’s something folks at the Magic Theatre, one of the country’s foremost purveyors of new plays, have known for a long time, and it’s something Magic audiences know, too. When you go see a new play, you are taking a risk, diving into the unknown with an expectation of at least being entertained and a hope of being altered, shaken or moved.
With new artistic director Loretta Greco taking over for Chris Smith, the Magic heads into a new season with a very human opening play.
Laura Schellhardt’s The K of D is a one-woman exercise in storytelling in which the dynamic actress Maya Lawson, a San Francisco native, plays the inhabitants of a small Ohio town during what comes to be known as the year of “the death.”
“I got a little story for you.” Those are the inviting opening word as Lawson, dressed in a tank top and jeans and carrying a satchel and a skateboard, invites us to set our brains on listening mode – something akin to sitting around the campfire and sharing ghost stories.
She tells us this is a story from her childhood, though we’re not exactly sure who exactly she is in this story. Offstage calls indicate she’s actually one of the characters she’s pretending to play, but we’re never quite sure (and that’s actually needlessly confusing by the end of the show).
The western Ohio town we’re in is near the Indiana border — “Think Dairy Queen,” our narrator tells us – and our job is to follow a pack of teenage friends from one tragedy to another and see how the events of one year ended up being a sort of urban legend about a girl with the “k of d” or “kiss of death.”
The play’s foray into the murk of urban legends is actually when it’s most interesting. We hear the teenagers tell a couple legends – one about a phone call from a crypt, another about a disgusting event at a diner – and then we’re given to understand that urban myths tell us a lot about ourselves and our fears. “It’s safer to be wary but more fun to believe.”
Keeping the teenage characters straight is challenging at first, but the appealing, energetic Lawson, under the direction of Rebecca Novick, sharpens her characterizations as she goes and the story begins to pick up speed.
On a set (by Melpomene Katakalos) of wooden planks, a metal milk crate and a steel drum), Lawson spins a yarn of twins Charlotte and Jamie McGraw and what happened when one of them was killed in a car accident by the horrible Johnny Whistler.
Schellhardt gives a whole lot away in her title, so the ending isn’t all that surprising, nor has she crafted an especially satisfying urban legend, but the telling is rich, especially when Sara Huddleston’s sound design is hooting and chirping and whooshing with sound effects that blend nature and possible otherworldly activity.
The K of D is actually more gripping as a ghost story than as an urban legend – there’s something thrillingly creepy about one voice in the dim light (lighting design by Kate Boyd) telling us about things that go bump in the theatrical night.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The K of D continues through Oct. 19 at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $40-$45. Call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.