‘SKIN’ at Climate Theater

Last week (wow, was it really a whole week? I’ve been really busy on stuff I’ll post about later but that involves typing “END OF PLAY” at the end of a new full-length draft) (I’ve now lost track of the beginning of this sentence; oh yeah) I went to what I thought was the day after opening of Steve Yockey’s Skin at Climate Theater.

For some reason, I always forget about previews. So if a show is advertised to run from, say, Feb 26 to Mar 21, I always think that means Feb 26 is opening night, and that if I show up the next night, everyone will have come the night before and they’ll be excited to see me. Instead, it’s almost always actually a preview. I have no idea why I can’t get that through my head.

So of course, I strolled up at 7:30, and the place was packed, sold-out, and it looked like I wasn’t going to get in. But somehow Jessica Heidt got me a seat in the front row, which was awesome until I found out playwright Steve Yockey actually gave up his seat and sat in the back so I could sit there. So then I felt guilty. (But not guilty enough to give up my sweet seat.)

The Climate Theater is a cool, tiny little black box theater that fills me with nostalgia for a place I’ve only heard about: Caffe Cino. Everybody who was in New York theater back in the day talks about how tiny the place was, how exciting the place was, how people were crammed into all the nooks and crannies, the actors were practically in the audience’s laps, and the work was fun, fierce and fresh. (Maybe not “fierce,” but I can’t resist the alliteration.)

Well, that’s the vibe at the Climate. With the restaurant downstairs, the art all around, the odd rooms in the building which I’ve heard used to be a boarding house, and the energy of SOMA, it just feels exactly like what you’d want a black box theater to feel like. Especially with this play running, which is fun, fresh and maybe not fierce but let’s leave it in.

The play is an intricately plotted story of five characters whose sexual stories all overlap. One of my favorite things, which I’ll equally attribute to playwright Steve Yockey and director Mark Routhier, is that scenes blend seamlessly one into the other, with no moving of furniture or blackouts to slow down the action. (The precise kind of direction I was advocating for in this post, which I always say is improv-inspired because that’s where I first encountered it, but who knows if that’s the case here.)

Since it’s a co-production with Encore Theatre, some of the fantastic actors from their shows (like T.I.C.) also appear here. The cast includes Patrick Alparone, Arwen Anderson, Miranda Calderon, Lance Gardner and Danielle Levin, who are uniformly terrific, although I can’t remember who plays who and I didn’t get a program because, as I mentioned, it was sold out. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that continues for the rest of the run. (The sell-outs, not the lack of programs.)

After the show, a bunch of us theater types ended up at the bar downstairs, where they know how to make a good Manhattan (hint for other bars: it’s supposed to have bitters). I talked to Steve, Mark, Molly, Jonathan, Chris, the other Chris, and several box office folks who told me their names before the first Manhattan but didn’t remind me after the third. Lots of talk, lots of laughs, lots of drinks. Which I gather is another way the Climate is kind of like Caffe Cino.

Skin by Steve Yockey at Climate Theater, 285 9th St, San Francisco, through Mar 21. Tickets at climatetheater.com.

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