Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Teen Perspective: GOOD GOODS

Teens Anya Richkind and Alona Bach weigh in on Crowded Fire's production of Good Goods, a haunting new play by Christina Anderson. [SPOILER ALERT!]

Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Stacey and Armando McClain as Wire in Good Goods; photo by Pak Han.

We walked towards the theater, realizing that we knew hardly anything about Good Goods, the play ahead of us. Maybe it’s about punny yet reliable products? Anya thought to herself, and hopefully didn’t say out loud.

Now, I can safely say there was no way we could’ve know what we were getting ourselves into. Good Goods cleverly lures the audience into a hammock of security, before seamlessly capsizing the hammock entirely.

Though the entire play takes place in a general store in a small Black town, the brilliant Christina Anderson (selected by American Theatre Magazine as one of 15 up-and-coming artists "whose work will be transforming America's stages for decades to come") takes each audience member on a journey of longing, nostalgia, and eventually accepting the often latent truth.

Lauren Spencer in Good Goods;
photo by Pak Han.
Anderson’s strength lies in the complexity of the interpersonal relationships she builds. Stacey Good (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen, alluring in his controlled quietness) returns from his life on the road, followed quickly by Patricia (a powerful Mollena Williams). The terms “ex-lovers” or “confused divorcees” do not begin to capture the subtlety of Stacey’s relationship with Patricia, his partner in his stand-up comedy routine and the woman with whom he has traveled for the last ten years. Anderson blurs the line between familiarity and love, leaving the audience to decipher who has true feelings for whom - that is, if anyone sincerely does care about anyone else.

Just when the tapestry of interpersonal relationships appears to be weaving itself towards completion, Anderson masterfully injects an element that changes the entire scheme: what if one person is no longer herself? When Sunny (a dynamic Lauren Spencer), the initially sweet, bright-eyed girl from another town, begins speaking as a rough-tongued member of the recently deceased, the entire foundation of the town -- shrouded in legend and mystique -- is brought into question.

Anderson skillfully juxtaposes the violence of Sunny’s possession with the tenderness between lovers-to-be, leaving audience members with the same simultaneous longing and paralysis that the characters feel. Ultimately, Good Goods is a story of accepting what is true, instead of what is familiar or expected.

SEE FOR YOURSELF: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Through June 23. $8 with your 8Rate pass. Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma St., S.F. (415) 255-7846. www.crowdedfire.org.