It’s something of a well-worn intro, but “only in San Francisco” could a woman sue the local transit company for an accident that unleashed in her a heretofore unknown voracious sexual appetite…and win. That’s the premise of “The Cable Car Nymphomaniac,” an original musical opening this week.
The production is based on the true story of Gloria Sykes, who claimed she received bumps, bruises and a libido run amuck from a 1964 cable car accident. (The case settled for $50,000 in 1970.)
For composer-librettist Tony Asaro the phrase “only in San Francisco” has become something of a mantra. It’s part of the reason he co-founded FOGG Theatre with colleagues Carey McCray and Aimee Miles.
“We all are Bay Area natives who went and sought careers elsewhere and moved back here to bring what we learned outside to the Bay Area,” says Asaro. “So much so much wonderful work in theater is being done here,” he says. The area where the FOGG team saw room for growth was in original musical theater: “We don’t have much and we want to change that,” he adds.
FOGG is an acronym for focus on Golden Gate, and the company’s mission is to tell local stories using local artists. While researching ideas, the Sykes episode jumped out to Asaro as one of those stories ripe for telling: “It has a character who is larger than life and there is the real conflict in a person struggling against the society.”
He also sees it holding up a mirror to current cultural challenges. “We’re incurring sort of a second or, I guess, even maybe a third wave of feminism right now. There are lots of questions in the culture about what does it mean for women to be sexual and why the culture feels it’s so important to police women’s sexuality.”
San Francisco-born, New York-based Terry Berliner is directing the musical, with a book by Kirsten Guenther. Local actors Rinabeth Apostol, Steven Ennis, Hayley Lovgren, Courtney Merrell, David Naughton, Alex Rodriguez and company founder McCray make up the cast.
The production doesn’t take a position on the merits of the Sykes case. “The way that we approach this story is that it’s inspired by the events but not a direct historical account. We use the character of the nymphomaniac as more of a…how do I want to put this without revealing too much? She’s a catalyst. She’s a catalyst for change in our characters,” says Asaro.
IF YOU GO
The Cable Car Nymphomaniac
Presented by FOGG Theatre
Where: Z Below, 470 Florida St., S.F.
When: Opens Jan. 16, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 31
Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.foggtheatre.org