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Z Space premieres a ‘House Tour’ to end all tours

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Danny Scheie plays the funny guide in “A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry.” (Courtesy Julie Schuchard)

The nature of shame, the power that perhaps can be found in not being “normal,” and gay culture assimilating into the mainstream are among themes Z Space playwright-in-residence Peter Sinn Nachtrieb explores in “House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonberry.”

Opening today in previews, the sometimes surreal world-premiere solo comedy, the culmination of Nachtrieb’s three-year residency, is interactive, and boasts a set design by Sean Riley that makes innovative use of Z Space’s warehouse-style theater.

Audiences will follow a wild guide throughout the former digs of a wealthy and eccentric couple who suddenly came to a mysterious fate.

Danny Scheie plays the opinionated guide, who has his own set of theories about what happened.

Nachtrieb wrote “House Tour” specifically for Scheie, a gifted comic actor who appeared in his play “BOB” at the 2011 Humana Festival in Loisville, Ky.

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The acclaimed playwright (whose local productions include “T.I.C. (Trenchcoat in Common)” and “The Totalitarians”) began hearing Scheie’s very particular and hilarious stage voice — high-pitched, snarky, elaborately precise — in his head.

As the character developed, Nachtrieb perceived him speaking in “double entendres and euphemism … in code and double meaning, often sexual and filthy,” he said, via email from New York, where he and Scheie were rehearsing with director Jason Egan, who heads New York’s Ars Nova.

When Nachtrieb approached Scheie, the San Francisco actor (and longtime fan of the writer’s work) was thrilled.

“One’s voice in a brilliant playwright’s head is the desire of every actor,” Scheie reports, also emailing from New York.

As Nachtrieb began writing “House Tour,” the two met regularly, sharing experiences about weird house tours they’d been on, and the play went through a series of workshops and readings, including at Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor program.

When Eagan joined in, it was, says Scheie, “a three-way-muse heaven.” Eagan pushed the playwright to deepen the play beyond mere comedy.

“I hope the piece will resonate in many ways and that you’ll really feel for this character,” Nachtrieb says.

House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonberry
Presented by Z Space
Where: Z Space, 470 Florida St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closes April 23
Tickets: $22 to $33
Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.zspace.org

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