Characters honestly meet their match

Extraordinary acting is at the heart of “Match,” a comedic drama and mystery — of sorts — by Stephen Belber about people who are not what they initially appear to be.

In a role played by Frank Langella on Broadway, Michael Medici is perfectly delicious as Tobi, an aging dancer and choreographer, in this local premiere from Expression Productions onstage in a nifty gallery on Mariposa Street.

The play begins as Tobi is about to entertain visitors to his modest New York apartment. Lisa (Jennifer Bareilles), an academic doing a research project on dance, arrives to interview him with her nervous husband Mike (John Gilligan) in tow — for reasons not disclosed at first.

Their conversation — about Tobi’s early career, his attempt at stardom and how he ended up in an unusual field creating dances for opera productions — is filled with fun details and famous names, and is a real treat for theatergoers and performing-arts lovers.

Medici as Tobi is entirely believable as he revels in stories from the past and fusses about his place and serving his guests. When the couple’s questions unexpectedly start to take him into uncharted territory, he remains sympathetic as he keeps a public face but clearly experiences myriad, unpleasant emotions at their pointed, personal queries.

In “Match,” Belber again explores and exposes the consequences of revealing hidden secrets, as he did in his play “Tape” (which became a movie with Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard).

While the buildup to the revelations might not be as dramatic or suspenseful as Belber intends, and the resolution might be unrealistically easy and pat, all three characters’ interconnected journeys nonetheless resonate — mostly because they appealingly confront their issues.

Under taut direction by Andrey Esterlis, who produced the 90-minute piece as well, Bareilles and Gilligan (in parts played by Jane Adams and Ray Liotta in New York) complement Medici with measured performances. Bareilles nicely reveals empathy and loneliness, while Gilligan unleashes his pent-up anger in a wholly realistic manner.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com
THEATER REVIEW

Match

Presented by Expression Productions  

Where: Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; closes Dec. 18

Tickets: $12 to $28

Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.matchonstage.com

artsentertainmentExpression ProductionsMatch

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen is known for providing personalized service at Charlie’s Pharmacy in the Fillmore.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Left: A Walgreens at 300 Gough St. is among San Francisco stores closing.
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City Councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco Councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio Lopez.<ins> (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)</ins>
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Most Read