MTC’s Failure blends death, music and whimsy

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Gertrude Fail (Megan Smith, left) and her clocks (Liz Sklar on ukelele, Patrick Kelly Jones on bass and Kathryn Zdan on kalimba) are surprised by the entrance of the debonair Mortimer Mortimer (Brian Herndon) in the West Coast premiere of Philip Dawkins’ Failure: A Love Story at Marin Theatre Company. Below: Time marches on for the Fail Sisters – Jenny June (Sklar, left), Gertrude (Smith, center) and Nelly (Zdan) – with musical accompaniment from Mortimer Mortimer (Herndon on trombone) and John N. Fail (Jones on snare). Photos by Kevin Bern

Philip Dawkins writes about the inevitable ending of all our stories in Failure: A Love Story, but his version of death is pretty darn upbeat. His beguiling play, now having its West Coast premiere at Marin Theatre Company

, is technically a “play with music,” but there’s a LOT of music, and it’s charmingly played and sung by the five-person cast. I reviewed the play for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Dawkins’ premise seems to be that there’s no such thing as a truly happy ending. We can all live happily ever after – until we die. So what matters is how we live. Why not sing “In the Good Old Summertime” or “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” while we wait?

That’s certainly what the Fail family does. It’s the early part of the 20th century, and Ma and Pa Fail have already succumbed to a terrible accident involving a new DeSoto and the Chicago River, leaving their four children to fend for themselves.

Some 13 years later, it’s 1928, the year we’re told in the show’s crisp narrative style that all three Fail sisters will die. Sounds dark and depressing – it’s anything but.

Read the full review here.

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Philip Dawkins’ Failure: A Love Story continues through June 29 at Marin Theatre Company, 391 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. Tickets are $37 to $58. Call 415-388-5208 or visit