“Drip” is the first play by Christina Anderson to be seen in the Bay Area, and not a moment too soon. Hooray for the tiny Crowded Fire for helping her develop it and for premiering it here. (Anderson’s currently a master of fine arts candidate in playwriting at Yale.)
The title refers to the steady drip-drip-drip of an i.v., which represents the ever-present reality that overhangs this luminous, surreal memory play.
Mae is a 74-year-old African-American woman lying in a hospital bed after a stroke, barely clinging to life.
Her mind wanders as, in an iridescent purple taffeta gown, big earrings and shiny black wig, she relives a particularly incomprehensible tragedy in her life, struggles to remove from her paralyzed right arm what she perceives as a blood-red scar and searches in a sort of focused daze for her “destiny.”
The grandson who lives with her, under house arrest for robbery but desperate to see his beloved granny in the hospital, is having trouble coping altogether.
Throughout, a red-capped, five-person “krew,” or chorus, alternately narrates, comments wryly on the action, plays assorted roles, supplies props and even sound effects as needed and generally provides cohesion.
It’s a dreamy, heartbreaking, deeply sensual and at times comical world that Anderson has crafted, full of shape-shifters, chaos and violence, longing and rage, language that transmutes and the ultimate, lurking destiny of death.
Anderson is young, but she appears to have a deep, intuitive understanding of life’s most mystifying and arduous journeys, not to mention an admirable theatrical flair.
And under Marissa Wolf’s carefully orchestrated direction, the company — including a few longtime Fire regulars — forms a graceful ensemble, playing within the restrictive perimeters of a tiny strip of floor in between two double tiers of audience risers.
As Mae, a low-key Mollena Williams makes the dying woman’s half-demented quest palpable.
Among the excellent chorus members, Melvina Jones is particularly striking as a shifty-eyed gypsy on a train, as is David Skillman as Mae’s long-gone charmer of a husband and Rami Margron as a mysterious landlady.
Only recent college grad Shoresh Alaudini seems tentative and awkward as the bad-boy grandson, not quite ready for the role’s nuances. Despite that, he appears fully connected in the play’s final, gratifyingly poignant moments.
Presented by Crowded Fire Theater Company in producing partnership with the Playwrights Foundation
Where: Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes Nov. 21
Tickets: $15 to $25
Contact: (415) 255-7845, www.crowdedfire.org