New pop sensation Robbie Reddin is having a rough time: there’s a possibility he’s a one-hit wonder with a song arising from events from a problematic past. And he’s having a bad day. How’s that? It’s bad enough to cause the young rising star, after performing in North Carolina and receiving a couple of boos from the audience, to hop in a cab and run away to his hometown piano teacher.
In Pennsylvania. That must have been a record high cab fare…
Seems, as he returns to his childhood town, he may be a one-hit wonder of another kind, too. Robbie’s return home continues to more than just a very bad day. His is the experience of what happens when a very nice kid (played more than winningly by Jeremy Kahn) growing up in a small town finally has the opportunity to have his super talent discovered: a big problem. You see, his first- and only- hit has been improved by the addition of lyrics not of his choosing- and now it’s incredibly successful because it’s considered controversial.
But there’s more to that than any music fan could realize…
Set in a small town, Song of Summer is a comic diversion exploring many topics worth examining, including what we leave behind when encouraged to exercise talent in one-dimensional fashion.
San Francisco Playhouse calls the work a “harmonious and hilarious romantic comedy about how revisiting the past can change our future.” Indeed. Written by Lauren Yee, the script is generous with, at once, witty, and then cutting, dialogue that makes us laugh while even becoming a bit spicy. This is especially true of Robbie’s manager, Joe (played convincingly by Reggie D. White) who is not at all happy with his charge’s angst insofar as its deleterious effect on his cash cow. His answer to the scuttlebutt: “Come on! It’s a pop song, not a church song!” is evidence he couldn’t care less what people are saying, as long as they will drive miles and pay money- whether fans or not- to come to see his boy perform…
Robbie’s love interest, Tina (played like a ninja by Monica Ho) has her fare share of power in the script: her words both (spoiler alert) seduce and wound as Yee brings the complications of expectations in relationships- of all kinds- to the fore as the complications of the theme of dubious career or commercial success begins to take a back seat. We laugh, we sympathize, and, of course, as audience members take opportunity to do their own strolls down memory lane, there is perhaps opportunity for empathy…
“I can think of no better way to usher in the summer of 2021 than with The Song of Summer, the uplifting comedy by Lauren Yee, one of our favorite playwrights,” Bill English, San Francisco Playhouse Artistic Director announced. “Lauren offers a complex, nuanced view of her characters and encourages us all to look within and be true to ourselves.”
Lauren Yee is a playwright, screenwriter, and TV writer born and raised in San Francisco. She currently lives in New York City. Her Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever and others, premiered at South Coast Rep, with subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, Victory Gardens, City Theatre, Merrimack Rep, and Signature Theatre. Her play The Great Leap has been produced at Denver Center, Seattle Rep, Atlantic Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre, Steppenwolf, Pasadena Playhouse/East West Players, and Cygnet Theatre. Yee’s play King of the Yees premiered at The Goodman Theatre and Center Theatre Group, followed by productions at ACT Theatre, Canada’s National Arts Centre, and Baltimore Center Stage. Her other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian Rep, Mu Performing Arts), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, Moxie, PlayPenn), Hookman (Encore, Company One), In A Word (Young Vic, SF Playhouse, Cleveland Public, Strawdog), Samsara (Victory Gardens), and The Tiger Among Us (Mu). She is the winner of the Doris Duke Artist Award, the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Horton Foote Prize, the Kesselring Prize, the ATCA/Steinberg Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, and the Francesca Primus Prize. She has been a finalist for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her plays were the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List. Lauren is a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists member (class of 2025), Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, former Princeton University Hodder fellow, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. TV: PACHINKO (Apple), SOUNDTRACK (Netflix). Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD. More information about the playwright can be found at her web site: www.laurenyee.com
Song of Summer is San Francisco Playhouse’s second in-person production since the corona virus pandemic began, following Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata. Under direction of SF Playhouse’s Bill English, Song of Summer unfolds with just the right amount of adolescent angst (mature audience alert: contains simulation of sex). The self-conscious laughter from the audience reminds that, yes, those are real people there in that theater! The only thing better than seeing a stage play is hearing applause – meaning actual people in an audience at the theater vs at home.
“Welcome to San Francisco Playhouse. Prepare to enjoy The Song of Summer,” is English’s joyful and abbreviated introduction to those of us watching on line. Short and sweet- just as is this story. Catch this cute little number either in person or on line. Hurry if interested in In-Person performances; they are selling quickly. Those of us who still enjoy On-Demand video can proceed a bit more leisurely- but don’t miss out. Performances- both live and On-Demand- run only until August 14. For ticket information please visit the SF Playhouse web site at www.sfplayhouse.com.
©2021 Michele Caprario
Photos courtesy of SF Playhouse used with permission
Founded by Bill English and Susi Damilano as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 2003, San Francisco Playhouse is the Bay Area’s premiere mid-sized theatre company. Staging six plays and musicals per year at its 199-seat Mainstage theatre on Post Street, as well as three world premieres per year at intimate stages in downtown San Francisco, the Playhouse presents over 400 performances per year.