Categories: Arts Theater

‘Good. Better. Best. Bested.’ a wild and whimsical Las Vegas-set comedy

Don’t worry about the awkward title. Jonathan Spector’s “Good. Better. Best. Bested.,” developed in his own Berkeley company Just Theater and now premiering (after further development at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival) in a co-production with Custom Made Theatre Company, is, er, the best.

Spector’s most recent mainstage production, the satirical “Eureka Day,” which premiered at Aurora Theatre in April, centered on the controversy over vaccinating children.

This one is also a satire, and also devolves, toward the end of its 90-minute, intermission-less running time, into a hilarious, hyper-real cacophony of simultaneous dialogs.

But it takes on a larger and more existential subject, with some whimsy — even a soupçon of sentimentality — in the mix as well.

The first few scenes are confusing, with a cast of seven playing multiple roles, including (probably unnecessary) walk-ons; it takes a while to figure out who the principal players are.

But Spector eventually connects all the dots, and the result is funny, charming and oddly affecting.

During a long, action-packed night on the Las Vegas strip (which is a representation of the entire world, as reflected in Theodore J.H. Hulsker’s evocative projections), various characters come together, and apart, in unexpected ways as their activities are abruptly redirected, and their emotions scrambled, in the wake of a devastating global event in faraway India.

They include: a stage magician (Mick Mize), who intones, at the beginning, “There’s no time like the present,” warning the audience that “the moment is fleeting,” which turns out to be all too true; a giddy young woman (Lauren Andrei Garcia) on her bachelorette-party weekend with a friend (Millie Brooks); a deadbeat dad (David Sinaiko), his teenage son (Tim Garcia) and estranged wife (Jessica Lea Risco); a frat-boy-type “bro” (Mize again); a shy would-be john (Gabriel Montoya); and a few others, including Spiderman (Montoya again), a superhero who, as it turns out, can’t save the world from disaster.

The ways in which the characters react to the world news — the ways they come together, or apart — are wonderfully inventive. Each character reveals multiple dimensions, thanks to Spector’s artistry and excellent actors.

Director Lauren English captures every nuance of this delectable comedy; she’s a perfect match for Spector’s sly sense of humor and deep empathy for the human condition in the age of anxiety.

REVIEW
Good. Better. Best. Bested.
Presented by Custom Made Theatre/Just Theater
Where: 533 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m., Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and/or 8 p.m. Saturdays; closes July 7
Tickets: $35 to $45
Contact: (415) 798-2682, www.custommade.org

Jean Schiffman

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