Shotgun’s curious Watson: more than elementary

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Brady Morales Woolery is Watson, Sarah Mitchell is Eliza in Madeleine George’s The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, a Shotgun Players production at the Ashby Stage. Below: Mick Mize is Merrick (with Morales Woolery as Sherlock’s friend Watson in the rear). Photos by Jessica Palopoli

Now that artificial intelligence has infiltrated our homes (Amazon’s Alexa) and our pockets (Apple’s Siri), we have robotic personal servants at our beck and call, just waiting for us to ask for directions, to compose a message or even tell us a joke (did you ever ask Siri the meaning of life?).This is a fun, occasionally helpful technological development, but like so much in our Silicon Valley-centric world, it’s hard to fathom just how extraordinary this is.

Except for the flying cars, we are pretty much living The Jetsons, and we take it in stride. Playwright Madeleine George attempts to knock some wonder – and perspective – into us in her play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, now at Berkeley’s Ashby Stage in Shotgun Players production. George tackles one of the key issues of our time – how, with all this instant and constant digital connection, can we still be so isolated – but does so in a clever – if not wholly satisfying – way.

Sort of a comedy, sort of a drama, Watson examines invention in three different eras, each enlivened by the same three actors playing different characters with the same names. The first era is our own. A genius named Eliza (Sarah Mitchell) has left the bosom of Big Blue (IBM) and embarked on the start-up road. Her talent is for artificial intelligence, and taking a cue from IBM’s Watson, which famously competed and won on Jeopardy in 2011, she has built a full-blown AI man named Watson. Played by Brady Morales Woolery, Watson is the warmhearted version of robotic – if robots had hearts, that is. He speaks compassionately about wanting to give Eliza everything she needs, and if he doesn’t understand something, he requests she nudge him in the right direction with more specific information.

In other words, he’s the perfect man, unlike Merrick (Mick Mize), Eliza’s ex-husband, who is channeling his rage and betrayal into an election campaign aiming him toward the city auditor’s office. Merrick can’t deal with the smallest of tech details involving his home computer, so he gets a member of the “Dweeb Team” to help him out. Sure enough, this “dweeb,” one Josh Watson (played by Woolery) turns out not only to be helpful but also willing to spy on Merrick’s ex-wife, whom he is sure is plotting something against him (she’s not).

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When the time period flips, it’s into the 1800s and the world of Sherlock and Dr. Watson. A woman (Mitchell) shows up at 221B Baker Street with a mysterious and tiny wounds on her hands and arms. Sherlock is out, so Dr. Watson (Woolery) takes the case, leading him on trail that ends with an inventor named Merrick (Mize), who has the disturbing notion of replacing his actual wife with a less troublesome mechanical version. Nina Ball’s attractive, highly functional set is full of surprises that help make the time travel even more enjoyable.

Another time flip takes us to a 1930s radio studio where Thomas A. Watson (Woolery) is being interviewed about that fateful day in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful transmission over a wire, “Mr. Watson! Come here. I want you.”

All the Watsons are interesting here because Woolery’s performance is so full of delight in whichever one he’s playing. Whether he’s a robot, a techno geek in love or a famous sleuthing sidekick, he crackles with humor, intelligence and enthusiasm.

Director Nancy Carlin encounters some pacing problems in the two-plus hours of the play, primarily in the contemporary scenes, which tend to become a bit of a slog. Much of that has to do with George’s script, which tends toward the overwritten, especially in the second act.

There are definitely diminishing returns as the play progresses, although there are a couple moments of real connection – once in a monologue from the telephone Watson and once from Eliza, who has a disarming passion for wanting to use the most advanced forms of technology to provide actual assistance to people most in need. It’s a revolutionary concept, and even more than fostering deeper connection between actual people instead of people “connecting” through screens, that idea – of Siri or Alexa or their more advanced progeny – filling out medical or housing paperwork or serving as legal adviser or just being smart in a situation when people don’t know how to be. That’s the staggering intelligence I’ll take from this Watson.

Madeleine George’s The (curious case of the ) Watson Intelligence continues through Sept. 3 in a Shotgun Players production at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $25-$40. Call 510-841-6500 or visit

Here’s what for the How and the Why at Aurora

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Rachel (Martha Brigham, left) and Zelda (Nancy Carlin) toast to their first meeting in Aurora’s West Coast Premiere of The How and The Why by Sarah Treem. Below: Zelda (Carlin, right) offers a tearful Rachel (Brigham) a tissue. Photos by David Allen

Watching a play like Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why makes me feel smarter – fractionally but still. To prove my point, I’m going to quote Ernst Mayr, an evolutionary biologist with whom I was unfamiliar before this play. Mayr, as we’re told in the play, was interested in the how and the why of things, the mechanism and the function.

Let’s apply that to Treem’s play, shall we? The how is pretty clear: Treem wrote a two-person play about two evolutionary biologists, an older professor and a younger grad student, having a discussion about their research, their theories and their lives. Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company chose to produce the play with direction by the redoubtable Joy Carlin and starring Joy’s daughter Nancy Carlin as Zelda, the brilliant but somewhat distracted professor, and Martha Brigham, as Rachel, the brilliant but somewhat unstable grad student. The play would be produced in Harry’s UpStage, the Aurora’s even more intimate space than its already intimate main stage.

The why is also pretty clear: this is a fascinating and, at least in my case, highly educational play in which two interesting and interested women at different places in their lives and careers dive deep into science, gender roles, academia and what it means to be a woman conducting research on the evolution of women and how that works in the patriarchal halls of science.

There’s an element of melodrama here as well, and Treem, best known for television writing (House of Cards season one, In Treatment and The Affair), doesn’t seem to be as invested in that part of the play. There’s a point where a slap occurs, and it’s not nearly as deeply felt as some of the more intellectual elements of the play, which truly are fascinating. There’s a secret afoot, and Treem doesn’t even bother disguising it much, so that when it’s revealed, the audience is, by design, already way ahead of the characters.

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Where this play soars is when the women are able to fully express their passion for their work. It’s sheer coincidence (or is it?) that both women are in the field of evolutionary biology. Zelda’s career-defining, Dobzhansky Prize-winning theory is called “The Grandmother Hypothesis” and involves menopause and how it allows women to live longer and assist their children in the raising of their children, thus, as Zelda puts it, inventing childhood.

Rachel, a character inspired by the work of Margie Profet as detailed in Natalie Angier’s Woman: an Intimate Geography, has come upon a potentially revolutionary idea. Why do women menstruate exactly? We think we know, but Rachel isn’t at all sure. She thinks the process has less to do with the reproductive process and more to do with women’s bodies and their defense against what she calls “the toxicity of sperm.” This theory, Rachel says, will change the way women think about their bodies, it will change the way men think about women’s bodies and it will change the way people have sex.

Zelda recognizes the brilliance in Rachel’s theory, but there are many unanswered questions and, as it turns out, Rachel’s theory presents certain challenges to Zelda’s.

For a talky two-hander, there’s actually a lot of action in this play, though we don’t see it, for instance, when Rachel presents her abstract at a conference and gets devoured by both male and (to her surprise and deep disgust) female critics. The action shifts from Zelda’s nice office (in a revered Boston-area university, not, I think, the Cambridge Community College) to a hockey-themed bar with a popcorn machine (sets and lights by Kent Dorsey), and the discussion, not to mention the tension, between the characters never flags for the play’s nearly two hours.

Credit that to Carlin’s astute direction and her casting of two actors whose intensity and commitment could manage to make much less crackling dialogue work. Nancy Carlin is so rooted in her character’s sensible shoes you half expect her to lead a post-show seminar in the intricacies of menopause and Zelda’s time spent studying it within a nomadic African tribe. There’s haughtiness in Zelda that no doubt comes from years of being the smartest person in the room and certainly being the most awarded. Brigham’s Rachel has her youth and naiveté working against her ferociously powerful mind, but we also see the potential for strength and, if Zelda can be any kind of role model, her potential for scientific ass kicking.

Watching two fierce actors attack meaty material like this is hugely pleasurable, and the fact that we get to learn some fascinating things about half of the world’s population is just evolutionary icing on this delectable theatrical cake.

Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why continues through May 22 at Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $35-$45. Call 510-843-4822 or visit

Aurora builds a mighty (funny) Monster

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The cast of Amy Freed’s comedy The Monster Builder – (from left) Rod Gnapp as Andy, Sierra Jolene as Tamsin, Nancy Carlin as Pamela, Thomas Gorrebeeck as Dieter and Tracy Hazas as Rita – believe they have avenged the evil of Danny Scheie as “starchitect” Gregor in the Aurora Theatre Company production. Below: Jolene and Scheie work out the intricacies of a design. Photos by David Allen

When salsa splatters across the unsealed Carrara marble, the horror of the architect played by Danny Scheie resounds through the intimate Aurora Theatre Company. An hors d’oeuvre has fallen on the floor, and after admonishing the clumsiness of his girlfriend, the architect demands a napkin and some vodka to clean it up. The marble is not stained, and the architect, one Gregor Zobrowski, calms down enough to say, “Crisis averted.” But is the crisis averted? Not even a little bit, and that’s the fun of Amy Freed’s The Monster Builder, a very funny riff on Ibsen’s The Master Builder (which the Aurora produced in 2006).

San Francisco writer Freed once again partners with the inimitable Scheie – past collaborations include You, Nero and Restoration Comedy – to create a comedy that skewers the world of egomaniacal “starchitects” and their sometimes godawful creations as well as the bad architectural taste of the general public that aims for nostalgia but settles for utilitarian garbage.

The fun of Freed’s play is watching Gregor navigate his giant ego through a cocktail party at his newly completed masterwork, an island residence made only of glass and marble with no walls and, apparently, no place but the floor to sit down (the humorous angular set is by Tom Buderwitz). Gregor is toying with a young married couple, Rita and Dieter (Tracy Hazas and Thomas Gorrebeeck), who run an idealistic architecture firm whose goal is bring back the commons in some way and help people come together the way they used to.

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Gregor’s girlfriend Tamsin (Sierra Jolene) tries to fill in the social graces that the master architect lacks, but this is the Gregor show. Director Art Manke keeps the comedy fairly subdued at first. Scheie is strong and funny but reigns in what can sometimes be a wild on-stage personality. There’s a slow build, so to speak, at work here, and the payoff involves a leap into some theatrical wildness involving human sacrifice, revenge and the building of the Abu Dhabi Tower of Justice and Interrogation. Oh, and there may be something supernaturally Faustian going on as well. One of Scheie’s finest moments here (among many) is the astonishing measure of disgust he can express in three simple words: “arts and crafts.”

If Ibsen’s Master Builder had some sort of troll in his soul, well Gregor’s got something even bigger and nastier – a mystery that is only partly solved by play’s end. There’s a Young Frankenstein vibe to the second act of Monster Builder, and that’s a whole lot of fun. At one point, in full villain mode, Gregor is pounding out Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in the church he has converted into his office. It’s really just a set up so he can say to Rita, “Put your hand on my organ.” As smart as Freed can be, she also can’t resist a cheap joke, and we love her for that. Who else would reference an Alzheimer’s institute made of a series of mazes?

The game cast, expertly balancing zany farce and brainy comedy, also includes Nancy Carlin as an old-money dame with a juicy remodeling job and Rod Gnapp as her husband, a man whose occupation can inspire surprising reactions. There’s a lively camaraderie among the actors, and when, in Act 2, they all (save one) join together in a common pursuit, there’s a satisfying enjoyment in their efforts.

Part farce, part examination of the world we make for ourselves, The Monster Builder erects a lovely, lively structure around a dark heart that beats with the sounds of delight in every crack of humanity’s foundation.

Amy Freed’s The Monster-Builder continues an extended run through Dec. 20 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $32-$60. Call 510-843-4822 or visit

Young actor soars in autism musical Max Understood

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Jonah Broscow is Max, a young man with autism in the world premiere of the musical Max Understood by Nancy Carlin and Michael Rasbury. Photo by Mark Palmer

In the world of pop culture, we’ve had precious few insights into the world of autism. Certainly the work of Oliver Sacks and Temple Grandin (and the HBO movie about her starring Claire Danes) have provided a window, as has the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which was adapted for the stage by London’s National Theatre in 2012 before becoming a big hit on Broadway. Now local actor/director/ Nancy Carlin and composer Michael Rasbury have created a musical about a young boy with autism called Max Understood.

After three workshop productions, Max finally receives his world premiere with a production directed by David Schweizer at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason. Like the stage version of Curious Incident, this production attempts to show us the world through the young man’s eyes, experiencing the sounds and sensations the way he does as he moves through a day that starts in the safety of his family home and then takes him for a dangerous solo journey through his neighborhood.

At the center of the show is fifth grader Jonah Broscow as Max, and his performance, from the very first moment of the 75-minute show right to the end, is extraordinary. His precise, fascinating performance galvanizes the entire production, and when he finally gets to sing (a lovely song called “Poetry” performed alongside a mermaid), it’s heartbreakingly lovely.

The idea to immerse us in Max’s world gets off to a powerful start with the opening number, “Noise Symphony,” which incorporates the astonishing sound design by The Norman Conquest. Alarms and cars and clocks and every little sound of an average morning are amplified until we feel as overwhelmed as Max. Then we meet Max’s parents (Teddy Spencer and Elise Youssef. Mom loves her song but longs for a more normal life. Dad, as a way to survive, has shut himself off emotionally (it’s almost like their part of the musical is a lost chapter of Next to Normal). While mom and dad struggle with the details of the day, Max slips out of the house on his little scooter.

Out on the street, he meets a mean teenage girl (Alyssa Rhoney), a nerdy boy with a head for facts (Jeremy Kahn), a sweet young woman (Hayley Lovgren) and a gardner with a fondness for leaf blowing (Jackson Davis). Like The Wizard of Oz, which Jonah watches repeatedly, these figures become fantasy characters that populate his journey. The nice lady doing her laundry, for instance, grows wings like his beloved Pegasus toy, and the nerdy boy embodies both Max’s obsession with both Albert Einstein and the American presidents (their song “Rushed Up” is a highlight of the score).

Director Schweizer makes effective use of the giant revolving set (by Alexander V. Nichols), which begins as a fairly straightforward family living room but then revolves to reveal a steep rake, which beautifully captures the projections (by Micah J. Stieglitz) and makes the outside world feel precarious and rather dangerous for anyone who’s running up and down its length.

There’s an emotional distance to the storytelling, which could be intentional given Max’s remove from the world he inhabits, but that distance is at odds with the nature of a musical, which usually uses songs and underscoring to draw an audience in emotionally. There are emotional moments to be sure, but we’re either too far in to Max’s world or not far enough to really make the show soar. This is an unusual, sophisticated piece of new musical theater. It’s clearly a labor of love, and Max Understood offers an intriguing glimpse into the world of autism but still hasn’t fully pulled us into that world.

Max Understood continues through April 26 at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$40. Call 415-392-4400 or visit

Mouse tales live again

What would Walt think? Working for the Mouse, Trevor Allen’s one-man recollection about being a costumed character in the Magic Kingdom, returns to Berkeley’s Impact Theatre. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs

About nine years ago, Trevor Allen lifted the veil on an operation so shrouded in secrecy and intrigue that the merest glimpse inside set people salivating. He revealed what it was actually like to be inside a costumed character in Disneyland.

Oh, yes, This is deeply inside stuff. And sweaty. And hilarious. It’s what you call a theatrical experience bursting with character.

Allen’s autobiographical solo show, Working for the Mouse, premiered at Berkeley’s Impact Theatre in 2002 then transferred to San Francisco. Now Allen is reviving the show for Impact and his own Black Box Theatre at La Val’s Subterranean.

The estimable Nancy Carlin has taken over the directing reins from Kent Nicholson, and the revised show is sharper and funnier than ever.

Allen hits the stage ready for battle in shorts, knee pads (one of the characters is a pint-sized guy, so there’s a lot of time on bended knee) and a vintage “Zoo Crew” T-shirt (that’s how Disneyland’s costumed atmosphere characters are described) emblazoned with Jiminy Cricket. Like any good Disney employee, he’s also wearing his name tag.

We learn that at age 17, Allen left his hometown in the Bay Area to find seasonal work in Disneyland. Throughout the 70-minute show he glances off the deeper theme of not wanting to grow up, but he’s also beginning to flex his young actor muscles. His dream is to be a “face character,” which is to say a character like Peter Pan or Prince Charming who is not engulfed in a full, furry body suit. The face characters also tend to have what every actor desires: voice clearance. They get to talk to the guests rather than remaining a mute sweat bomb in a giant head and stuffed body.

We watch as Allen progresses through the character infrastructure. First he’s Pluto, then pirate Mr. Smee, then a talking Mad Hatter, and we can see him maturing and opening his eyes to some of what the real world – even in its Magic Kingdom form – has in store for him. He gets hazed by the veterans in the department, has his heart broken and gets his best, most creative intentions trampled by the corporate machine.

Throughout, Allen is a dynamic, highly appealing performer, attacking this coming-of-age story with unflagging energy and crack comic timing. Director Carlin has helped Allen warm up the show and find even more edge to the humor. This is not a Disney-bashing experience, though it certainly could be. Even rabid fans of Disneyland (consider me guilty) will savor Allen’s tales of misbehavior, mismanagement and misbegotten Matterhorn sex.

One of the things that tickled me the first time I saw the show was Allen’s Ed Wynn impression – a necessity for anyone playing Disney’s version of the Mad Hatter – and that delight is still very much present here. Another huge piece of enjoyment, especially for Disneyphiles, is the sound design by Cliff Caruthers, which is filled with wonderfully incisive references to rides and movies.

Allen has honed Working for the Mouse to an impressive level, but that’s not all. There are more tales to be told. If the show leaves you wanting more, and it will, check out Allen’s book-in-progress at

Trevor Allen’s Working for the Mouse, a co-production of Impact Theatre and Black Box Theatre, continues an extended run through July 16 at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$20. Visit

Great actors at Cal Shakes

Casts and creative teams for the first two Cal Shakes shows have been announced, and it looks like it’s shaping up to be another hot summer in the chilly environs of the Bruns Amphitheater in the bucolic Orinda hills.

The 24th season opens May 28 with Shakespeare’s Pericles, directed by Minneapolis-based director Joel Sass in his Cal Shakes debut. The play is being done as an ensemble piece, with eight actors playing multiple roles. Embattled Pericles, Prince of Tyre will be portrayed by Christopher Kelly, a newcomer to Cal Shakes and a five-year resident at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Delia MacDougall, who appeared last season in Man and Superman and King Lear, returns as This/Bawd and Danny Scheie (Arlecchino in The Triumph of Love) portrays Helicanus/Simonides/Boult.

Shawn Hamilton, who appeared in Sass’ Guthrie Theater production of Pericles, will reprise his roles as Gower, Lychorida, and Diana. Associate artist and Fox Fellowship awardee Ron Campbell and associate artist Domenique Lozano, (co-stars in last summer’s The Triumph of Love, play Antiochos/Cleon and Dionysia/Cerimon, respectively; and Sarah Nealis (Cordelia in last season’s Lear) plays Marina/Antiochus’ Daughter. Finally, newcomer and recent ACT MFA grad Alex Morf (Act’s The Rainmaker) is Lysimachus/Thailand/Leonine.

The creative team includes Melpomene Katakalos (Set Designer); Raquel M. Barreto (Costume Designer); Russell H. Champa (Lighting Designer); Greg Brosofske (Composer); and Jeff Mockus (Sound Designer).

Pericles runs through June 22.

Next up, on July 2, is Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Cal Shakes artistic director Jonathan Moscone teams up with Michael Butler (artistic director of Walnut Creek’s Center Repertory Company) making his Cal Shakes debut as politician Robert Chiltern. Associate artist Julie Eccles will play his wife, Gertrude, Stacy Ross will portray the villainess Mrs. Cheveley and Elijah Alexander (SO good in last summer’s Man and Superman) plays the rake Lord Goring.

Other Man and Superman cohorts returning for Mosconi’s latest production include include set designer Annie Smart, associate artist Nancy Carlin (Lady Basildon) and Delia MacDougall (Mrs. Marchmont). Joan Mankin will play Lady Markby, Sarah Nealis is young Mabel Chiltern and Danny Scheie as the Vicomte de Nanjac/Phipps.

Moscone’s creative team includes Annie Smart; Meg Neville (Costume Designer); Scott Zielinski (Lighting Designer) and Jeff Mockus (Sound Designer).

An Ideal Husband continues through July 27.

Visit for information, and don’t forget to check out the new-and-improved Cal Shakes blogs here. The blogs currently include an interview with Pericles himself, Christopher Kelly, and a plea for housing for Cal Shakes interns.

Review: `The Scene’

Opened Feb. 2, 2008 at SF Playhouse

The Scene makes a scene at SF Playhouse
Three stars Scene to be seen

By all rights, opening night of SF Playhouse’s The Scene should have been a disaster.

The company, which has really come into its own during this, its fifth season, had every reason to believe The Scene would in fact be a scene. They had imported a celebrity star in Berkeley native Daphne Zuniga, of “Melrose Place” fame. And they had a sizzling play from hot playwright Theresa Rebeck, who made her Broadway debut last year in the well-received Mauritius.

Then reality struck. Just days before Saturday’s gala opening-night performance, Zuniga contracted laryngitis and was under doctor’s orders not to perform. She missed Friday’s preview and was MIA for opening night.

Enter Nancy Carlin to the rescue. The veteran Bay Area actor, whose husband, Howard Swain, is also in the Scene cast, was already on deck to fill in for a few performances later in the run when Zuniga had scheduling conflicts. But she was hardly ready to step into the role yet.

So, Saturday night, artistic director Bill English made a pre-show announcement about Zuniga’s indisposition and warned us that Carlin would be carrying her script.

Turns out, Carlin was wonderful in the role of Stella, a bright, funny TV talk show producer who has been turned hard and cynical by her job, New York and life in general.

The theater’s electrical system, on the other hand, was less prepared than Carlin. The theater was plunged into blackout twice during Act 2.

The company (under the intrepid stage management of Nicola Rossini) soldiered on, and it’s a good thing they did. In spite of the sick star and the wonky wiring, The Scene is a terrific production of a sparky play that in many ways generates its own electricity.

The two-hour play begins and ends at swanky Manhattan parties (the slick, swiftly changing set is by English). At the first one, friends Charlie (Aaron Davidman) and Lewis (Swain) encounter what Rebeck calls a “scene machine,” which is a young person who thrives on the upper-crust party circuit.

This person is in the form of Clea (Heather Gordon, who also happens to be Miss Marin County 2008 and will compete for the title of Miss California in June), who keeps reminding us that she’s fresh off the bus from Ohio. Clea is a near-perfect specimen: gorgeous with impeccably cut long blond hair, a figure that doesn’t quit in her tight clothes and a brain that is far craftier than she’d like most of her acquaintances to know.

The first party scene sets up the impending disaster as Clea insinuates herself into Lewis’ and then Charlie’s life. She really is a monster — “some kind of succubus” as one character describes her — because she’s capable of being all things to all people. She can be genuine and artificial simultaneously, dumb blond-ish one moment and whip-crack smart the next. She’ll use sex to get what she wants and then verbally lacerate anyone who suggests she’s doing just that.

I can’t comment on Zuniga’s well-rehearsed performance, obviously, but I will say that Carlin is perfectly cast as Stella, Charlie’s wife, who turns out to be far more interesting than her hard, ultra-competent exterior suggests. Even in thrust into performance unready, Carlin was able to convey Stella’s depths, her humor and her soul-shaking hurt.

Davidman’s Charlie takes the biggest journey of the play, going from frustrated unemployed actor to — well, to say more would be to spoil the play’s trajectory. But he’s an intelligent man who takes responsibility for his choices, and he even tries to hold on to his integrity in a world that has no value for nor need of anything smacking of soulfulness.

The role of Lewis is the least flashy in the show, but Swain imbues it with great humor and warmth. Lewis does nothing the whole play but tell the truth — even if that means admitting his shallowness. He’s a good man, and with Swain in the role, there’s no doubt of that.

The play, well directed by Amy Glazer, really does belong to Gordon’s Clea, a repulsive, irresistible dervish who makes The Scene sexy and scary and something to be seen and savored.