Kate Robards’ solo show “PolySHAMory” runs at The Marsh through Feb. 8. (Courtesy Joan Marcus)

Open marriage goes wrong in funny ‘PolySHAMory’

Yet Kate Robards’ teasing show looks at complex issues slightly

Solo writer-performer Kate Robards enters the Marsh stage with a finger stuck bashfully in her mouth. She casts a coy, complicit look at the audience. She swigs from a bottle of water.

So, with her long blond hair and her lithe, youthful appearance, plus a slight Southern accent — she frequently addresses the audience as “y’all” — it’s easy to assume she’s breaking the fourth wall, introducing us to an artfully constructed character. If she were just herself, she’d have drunk water before going onstage, right?

But this is no character — this is Kate Robards, or presumably a version of herself as directed by Maureen Monterubio — wide-eyed, disingenuous, laughing at her own jokes throughout (until, at the end, but all too briefly, she’s not). She has a story to tell about her own polyamorous marriage.

Unfortunately, it’s a story that seems aimed to tease and titillate, even to boast with a sort of faux humility (her husband’s so rich that she can afford to buy anything she wants) rather than to truthfully explore a complicated experience.

Presenting herself as a simple girl from rural Texas who loves pickles (as she tells in an extended riff) and who wants a relationship that she and her husband agree will not be boring, Robards finds herself at the ancient age of 30 displaced from the open marriage, which she initially entered into willingly, by her husband’s 22-year-old girlfriend.

But despite sex-positive therapy (which she illustrates with some funny sequences satirizing the endless jargon and acronyms and the rote words of comfort), she sticks doggedly with the marriage.

The material is potentially intriguing, but more than anything the show resembles a meandering (see pickle confession, above) and unscripted episode of NPR’s Moth Radio Hour.

Robards is a local actor who’s created solo shows previously, and she’s performed “PolySHAMory” around the country, garnering some enthusiastic reviews.

Yet at a time when we want more than ever to hear women’s true and personal stories, told bravely and honestly — and, sure, at moments comically — this one is disappointingly superficial.

REVIEW

PolySHAMory

Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; closes Feb. 8

Tickets: $25 to $100

Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org

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