‘EVIE’S WALTZ’ at Magic Theatre

Last night, M was sick, so I had to go to Carter Lewis’s Evie’s Waltz alone. Which meant I had no one to grab onto. Which would have been nice, because this is one tense play.

Every dramatist has heard the story of Alfred Hitchcock saying, basically, that if you have a scene with two guys eating dinner at a restaurant, it’s just a scene; but if you cut to a suitcase with a bomb in it sitting under the table, it’s now suspense.

That’s exactly what Lewis does. Early on, gunshots ring out. You then spend the rest of the time wondering when more shots are coming.

The tension is ratcheted up even more by a subtle playing with the rhythms of the play. The first time the shots are fired, it follows a buildup of dialogue onstage. You’re then subconsciously trained to worry every time tensions run high, sentences get shorter and louder, and there’s a crescendo of emotion. And it’s definitely on purpose, because the production plays with those expectations and subverts them for comic and not-so-comic moments.

Carter Lewis is a great writer. I remember reading a play of his way back in my lit department days in Austin and being extremely impressed. The show’s been extended and is getting rave reviews, so I guess I’m not the only one impressed.

Carter Lewis’s Evie’s Waltz, at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, through Dec 21. Tickets at magictheatre.com.