Jill Vice appears in “A Fatal Step,” a "one-woman noir," at the Marsh. (Courtesy John Orvis)

Jill Vice shows versatility in ‘Fatal Step’

“A Fatal Step,” which Jill Vice calls “the outrageous one-woman noir,” plays like a mini-movie in which the wildly talented Vice portrays all of the characters.

It’s impossible to take your eyes off the animated actress, who crafted the often funny show running through March at The Marsh, The City’s home to solo stage performers, who often tell their own, deeply personal stories. (Several years ago, Vice created the winning “Tipped & Tipsy,” based on years of work as a bartender.)

Vice isn’t doing that here, though. Assisted by director Mark Kenward and lighting and sound technician Alexa Almira, she’s come up with a clever and cynical tale that has the timbre of a Humphrey Bogart flick (and at times even a Hitchcock thriller).

But it has a twist: Sarah, the sardonic femme fatale, attired in a tight red cocktail dress that brings Jessica Rabbit to mind, is the not entirely sympathetic protagonist, offering up tidbits such as “The problem with people who have no vices is that they’re going to have some annoying virtues.”

Interestingly, the show isn’t set in the 1940s or ‘50s, but in present-day San Francisco, where Sarah works in a chi-chi florist shop in The Mission and keeps her podiatrist boyfriend Frank, who happens to be mama’s boy, “well-trained.”

But their flagging romance takes a turn for the worse after Frank finds himself doing charity work with the plain Hope, who, according to Sarah, “has a squishy face and is painfully optimistic.”

While the dramatic Sarah commands the show, Vice deftly creates other distinctive characters: Frank has a calm, good-natured drawl; Hope displays a breathy kindness; Frank’s deep-voiced, invalid mom Mona makes a vivid impression from a lying-down, horizontal position; and a seemingly stoned “male feminist” Lyft driver humorously offers up nuggets of wisdom.

At 60 minutes, “A Fatal Step” is just the right length. While it’s a quick hit, amusing spoof of the genre and excellent example of Vice’s versatility, it doesn’t tread too deeply or leave a lasting emotional impact.

REVIEW
A Fatal Step
Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, closes March 3
Tickets: $20 to $100
Contact: www.themarsh.orgAlexa AlmiraFatal StepJill ViceMark KenwardMarshTheater

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