"Insignificant Others," the new musical written by Bay Area playwright Jay Kuo, is about a group of five friends who move from Ohio to San Francisco and are quickly dazzled by all of its well-known quirks and eccentricities.
Unfortunately, the two-hour-plus musical feels like it’s written from that perspective as well, resulting in a production that comes off as naïve and dated.
Staged at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, Kuo relies heavily on observations and commentary on San Francisco that have already been beaten to death, including the good ol’ Starbucks joke.
Here, the corporate coffee shop that raises San Francisco’s ire to red-alert levels is run by a militant gang of baristas bent on taking over the world with its caffeinated prowess, even teaming up with tune-up tyrant Jiffy Lube to launch a major corporate merger offensive.
The idea is cute, but entirely passé.
Same goes for the kind of observations each of Kuo’s characters stumble upon as their respective developments unfold.
Kristen (Katie Smith), the token Bohemian, is blown away by the organic Mecca that is Rainbow Grocery, while Margaret (Cara Burgoyne) is thrown for a loop when a man she is dating turns out to be a woman.
Jordan (Brandon Mears) is perplexed by an office crush who may or may not be gay.
It would appear, from Kuo’s brief biography included in the program notes, that he has been living, working and writing in San Francisco for a decent amount of time.
He premiered his first musical "Upwardly Mobile" at Stanford University not too long ago, and he is already working on his third musical, "Homeland," set to debut at the New Conservatory Theatre as well.
So, it remains curious as to why the playwright’s perspective of San Francisco is so wide-eyed.
Had he introduced this musical 10 years ago, the freshness it seeks to deliver might have more relevance than it does now.
Still, Kuo has penned an admirably prolific production. An impressive 29 songs, complete with choreography, move the show’s story along.
Regardless, in very much the same way that Broadway blockbuster "Rent" gave middle America a serving of queer theater it could swallow without too much indigestion, "Insignificant Others’" vanilla depiction of San Francisco’s celebrated "anything goes" lifestyle probably won’t cut it with most local audiences.