From left, Avanthika Srinivasan, Johnny Moreno and Jeff Kim are excellent in San Francisco Playhouse’s premiere of “The Fit.” (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)

Carey Perloff’s ‘The Fit’ snappily takes on Silicon Valley

SF Playhouse stages insightful premiere

“We’re all tribal!” exclaims Indian-American MIT graduate Sakina to Jeremy, her Chinese-American co-worker and, presumably, her lover, early on in “The Fit.”

That casual declaration turns out to be all too true in this sparkling and swift-moving San Francisco Playhouse world premiere by former American Conservatory Theater artistic director Carey Perloff.

Sakina (an excellent Avanthika Srinivasan, both tough and charming) is a super-smart engineer and ambitious recent hire at Blue Sky, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm headed by the avaricious and verbally abusive hot-shot Paul (a detailed, chillingly convincing portrayal by Johnny Moreno).

Sakina’s determined effort to pitch what she considers a wonderful new investment — a wearable medical device that measures vital signs and transmits the resulting information electronically as needed (for example, to a concerned family member) — is the thread that winds through an intricate, multi-layered plot.

The (unseen) man behind the concept is, like Sakina, Indian; Sakina believes in him and in the product, and their shared ethnicity has something to do with the connection she feels.

Also convinced in the product’s potential is Paul’s lawyer wife, Marcia (Arwen Anderson, both sweet and steely-eyed), who has an office directly below Paul’s and pops in frequently for confrontations (their marriage is foundering). She believes that the product will help them care for their anorexic teenage daughter (although it’s unclear exactly how).

When the two women join forces to convince Paul to take on the startup, things get increasingly complicated and tense.

A clever and pointed addition to the mix is a third woman: the sneaky Filipina cleaning lady, Ching (a terrific Michelle Talgarow), who has money-making schemes of her own.

And then there’s that perhaps equally untrustworthy and all-too-eager-to-please employee Jeremy (Jeff Kim, with a perpetual uneasy smile).

The challenges for women and especially women of color in Silicon Valley are not just about how to rise to the top but how to maintain whatever integrity they’ve entered the field with; that’s Sakina’s internal battle throughout, which Perloff develops with great humor and insight.

One writerly choice feels formulaic: the black hat/white hat dichotomy that characterizes villainous-male Paul and empathetic-female Marcia. Another choice is underdeveloped (and perhaps extraneous): the quasi-relationship between Sakina and Jeremy.

And the abrupt ending deprives the audience of the chance to fully share in Sakina’s inner struggle.

But Perloff’s snappy, carefully considered play, so beautifully directed by Bill English for San Francisco Playhouse’s new-play Sandbox Series, is a delight.

REVIEW

The Fit

Presented by San Francisco Playhouse

Where: Strand, 1127 Market St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; closes June 29

Tickets: $30 to $35

Contact: (415) 677-9596, sfplayhouse.org

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