EXTENDED AGAIN THROUGH DEC. 8
Comedian, author and TV personality Brian Copeland wrote and starred in one of San Francisco’s longest-running solo shows of all time. He’s back with a new show, The Waiting Period, which takes his art in a powerful new direction. Photo by Joan Marcus
There’s nothing unusual about the following statement: Brian Copeland is a funny, funny man. He has proved that time and time again over the course of his stand-up career and his TV work. We started to see more of Copeland in his extraordinarily successful solo show Not a Genuine Black Man, which ran for more than 700 performances then became a book. Though about something serious – the extreme racism of San Leandro in the 1970s – the show offered abundant laughter and gave audiences the unique experience of dealing with real-world problems in a funny and theatrical way.
Copeland takes that notion a step further with his new solo work, The Waiting Period. Like his previous show, this one is co-developed and directed by David Ford, and it has sprung to life at The Marsh in San Francisco. But unlike his previous outing, this is no comedy. Far from it.
Of course there are laughs in this 70-minute one-act. How could there not be with Copeland writing and performing it? But this is a very different experience because it is driven by a very clear agenda. The Waiting Period is about the disease known as depression and about how important it is for people suffering from depression to reach out to someone, anyone, and keep a connection to life. He dedicates the show to Colton L. Fink, a 15-year-old who lost that connection and took his own life.
The waiting period of the show’s title is the state-mandated 10 days before you can purchase a handgun. We know this because, as Copeland tells us, he was intending to spend about $400 on a gun he intended to use only once. On himself. In this darkest of dark times, Copeland was dealing with the effects of serious injuries sustained in a car accident that happened around the time his wife left him and their three children with no real reason.
Lost in hopelessness, Copeland visits a gun dealership, where, in spite of his bleak state of mind, he finds humor in the whole enterprise. He sees posters on the wall of bikini-clad ladies holding firearms trying hard to look sexy and lethal. “I’ve been married twice,” he says. “They were either lethal or sexy. Never both.” Or in that moment when he’s holding the revolver, he senses it’s a “little black steel penis extender…not everyone can afford a Corvette.”
With pathos and heart, Copeland conveys to his audience the helplessness of depression and the disease of it. At one point, he’s standing outside of himself, the healthy Brian attempting to “slap the shit” out of depressed Brian. But the healthy self has to concede that, “He can’t hear us. He’s sick.” The power and emotion Copeland and Ford have invested in this story elevate it above your average night out at the theater.
This is an entertaining, intriguing show to be sure. But you know you’re seeing something important as Copeland slowly begins re-connecting to life, most notably when he goes to speak at a local high school where he recognizes an overachieving but depressed teenager. The Waiting Period is ultimately as life-affirming a show as you could hope to see. There’s an especially nice touch toward the end as Copeland, coming into the light and feeling hope trickle in, is surrounded by the sound of happiness, and it sounds like a trumpet playing “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brian Copeland’s The Waiting Period continues an extended run through Dec. 8 at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$35 on a sliding scale. Call 415-282-3055 or visit www.themarsh.org.