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Review: SHOOT ME WHEN at SF Playhouse

SF Playhouse's Shoot Me When is a bittersweet perspective on the effects dementia has on all involved.

Review: SHOOT ME WHEN at SF Playhouse

Shoot Me When

Written by Ruben Grijalva

Directed by Susi Damilano

SF Playhouse

I can't remember how many times I've joked "Shoot Me if.... Shoot me if I ever wear my pants below my underwear. Shoot me if I eat this entire pint of Haagen-Dazs, etc. Writer Ruben Grijalva uses this usually non-actionable catchphrase as the catalyst for this untypically light drama about the effects of dementia on both the victim of the disease and the family.

Sir Anthony Hopkins just won the Oscar for his brilliant characterization of a man losing his mind putting my worst fears into searing focus. Here we're introduced to Jackie (Lorri Holt), a foxy, effervescent woman definitely enjoying a vacation to Tahoe with her two daughters Ariel (Melissa Ortiz) and Gabby (Blythe de Oliveira Foster). She's at the bar flirting with the charming Len (Dan Hiatt) who she thinks looks like her ex-husband Larry.

Review: SHOOT ME WHEN at SF Playhouse
Daughters Ariel (Melissa Ortiz) and Gabby (Blythe de Oliveira Foster discuss their responsibilities.

Ariel is concerned for her mother in her 'condition' while Gaby is more carefree and forgiving. We get mention of this night being 'part of the plan' and perhaps Len may play his part in what will transpire. The plan is revealed to be a suicide pact the trio made when Jackie was no longer able to function. What could be a somber and heartbreaking effort plays out more like an old Hollywood screwball comedy than Hopkins The Father.

The lightness comes from Holt's Jackie. Seemingly oblivious to her predicament, she's open to romance with Len, eating her favorite pistachio ice cream and crossing off her remaining bucket list items. Along the way her daughters must be tethered to the reality of the situation and deal with it based on their familial roles: Ariel is married with children and caring for Jackie, Gabby is a drifter with no ties. This offers an integral subplot illustrating the effects on the family.

Review: SHOOT ME WHEN at SF Playhouse
Len (Dan Hiatt) and Jackie (Lorri Holt) bond quickly.

When Jackie doesn't remember the plan, she must be reminded and the plan proceeds, almost. Len intercedes, the plan is foiled. Jackie ends up in a home, Ariel in jail. The denouement is bittersweet and yes, heartbreaking.

The ensemble acting is wonderful, the direction by Susi Damilano true to the dialogue. As always, the production is enhanced by SF Playhouse's stellar crew: beautiful lighting by Andrea Schwartz, Tony Jue's sound design, Teddy Hulsker's projection design and Bill English's Lake Tahoe casino set design.

I know I've spoken of a 'plan' for similar to Shoot Me When and I can't be alone in how close to home this production reaches. As many of us may experience this is some fashion, this production puts our thoughts into concrete action. An added joy is watching a fully fleshed production on a real stage after so long a break - bravo to SF Playhouse.

On-demand video streaming at sfplayhouse.org (tickets required). For tickets ($15 - $100) or more information, the public may contact the San Francisco Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596, or online at https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2020-2021-season/shoot-me-when/

Photo Credit: Donny Gilliland



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