3Girls Theatre’s production of AJ Baker’s “Entanglement” onstage at Z Below opens with Emma Howard (Madeline HD Brown) attempting to cajole her former drama professor and lover Luke Pine (Louis Parnell) into directing her first play, titled “Entanglement.”
Cozying up to Pine at The Green Room, a seedy Tenderloin theater bar, she explains that it’s about choice: “How every choice we make, for our bodies and our souls, inevitably alters the whole world.”
Luke laughs her off, calling it “a lot to take on in your first play — the whole world … I hope you didn’t give up your day job.”
Howard may not be up to the task, but Baker, 3 Girls Theatre’s resident playwright, co-founder and producing artistic director, certainly is.
In her play within a play, she manages to explore the quantum mechanics behind humanity’s interconnectivity in a manner that’s intelligent, accessible and enjoyable.
Worthy first effort or not, Howard convinces Pine to direct her play, which she announces will premiere at the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
She will star in the romantic drama, in the role of Kat, a woman wronged by her partner Doug, played by her real-life husband Rob (Chad Deverman).
Luke enlists the help of his daughter Jeri (Heather Gordon) as assistant director.
As the play unfolds, we discover how each character’s past and present actions continue to affect their counterparts.
Most of the two-hour play takes place in a tiny, run-down black box theater in the Tenderloin, on a sparse set that puts focus on the four fascinating characters, brought to life by talented actors.
Brown, as Emma (a wife and mother of two who can’t escape her past relationship with Luke), credibly alternates between adoration and aggression.
Parnell, also the show’s director, is endearing as Luke, the aging stage star who seems to take little pleasure in anything.
Deverman brings a suave sophistication to Rob, Emma’s emasculated husband who left a successful acting career behind to run a construction company, but is now getting his mojo back on stage.
Gordon is a chameleon, morphing into every character she undertakes, including that of Jeri, Luke’s highly defensive, wisecracking daughter.
Memorable performances are buoyed by Baker’s uplifting story, which touches on human interactions, foibles and challenges of many kinds — love, infidelity, pregnancy, abortion, childhood vaccination and cancer — and the ongoing presence of hope, for better or for worse.
Presented by 3 Girls Theatre
Where: Z Below, 470 Florida St,, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, plus 2 p.m. Sundays and Dec. 17; closes Dec. 17
Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.zspace.org/entanglement