A Southern dry goods store full of wonder 

click to enlarge In the act: Mollena Williams appears in Crowded Fire Theater’s evocative West Coast premiere of “Good Goods.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • In the act: Mollena Williams appears in Crowded Fire Theater’s evocative West Coast premiere of “Good Goods.”

If Tennessee Williams had been born black, he might have written a play like Christina Anderson’s “Good Goods,” receiving a stellar West Coast premiere by the ever-adventurous Crowded Fire Theater.

Anderson’s script is so dense — and the dialogue so melodiously thick — that it takes a while to grasp the nuances of the various relationships among the characters in Good Goods, which is a dry-goods store in a small, blue-collar Southern town.

There’s high-strung Truth (David E. Moore), longtime shop manager and protege of the original shop owner, Mr. Good.

There’s the slightly younger, restlessly disturbed Stacey (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the owner’s son, who has been touring in a comedy duo for years and has suddenly reappeared and taken over, much to Truth’s resentment.

There’s good-natured messenger-boy Wire (Armando McClain), eager to celebrate his 30th birthday today, especially now that Stacey is back — the erotic undercurrent between them is palpable.

The tense interactions among the trio are interrupted by the arrival of Wire’s sly twin sister, Patricia (the always intriguing Mollena Williams), who was Stacey’s performing partner until he left the act. She’s brought along a young woman she met on the bus on the way here: Sunny (Lauren Spencer, a stunningly transformative actor).

And later on, there’s Waymon (Anthony Rollins-Mullens), who channels a priestess during a gloriously climactic exorcism scene.

So much happens in the course of the drama’s short time frame that the two hours of real time actually feel longer — but in a good way.

The recent history of this place affects everyone. A curse, of sorts, was once placed on the nearby pencil factory; a mythic female figure still wields power; an “invasion” is often referred to but never explained (the one unneeded element in the play); and more.

When, at the end of the first act, there’s an (unseen) fatal accident at the factory, that disaster drives the events of the second act.

Aside from the magical realism and dazzling theatricality, which includes some singing, “Good Goods” is at its heart about love and loneliness, and the way people come together out of need.

Director Marissa Wolf paces the action just right, allowing for natural pauses and for subtle, tender moments, and moving the excellent ensemble gracefully around the tiny stage.

Designers Emily Greene (set), Madeleine Oldham (sound) and Masha Tsimring (lights) enhance the pitch-perfect production values.

REVIEW

Good Goods

Presented by Crowded Fire Theater

Where: Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes June 23

Tickets: $10 to $35

Contact: (415) 255-7846, www.crowdedfire.org

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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