COURTESY MARK LEIALOHAFrom left

COURTESY MARK LEIALOHAFrom left

Word for Word makes magic with Alice Munro

There simply couldn't be a more perfect pairing than Nobel Prize-winning Canadian writer Alice Munro and Word for Word, San Francisco's venerable theater troupe that uses its source material as exactly written in its original text.

Director Joel Mullennix and an impeccably fine-tuned ensemble present two pointed and poignant Munro short stories – “The Office” and “Dolly” – in Word for Word's enlightening and satisfying production onstage at Z Below through April 12.

Jeri Lynn Cohen, sharp and endearing, portrays the opinionated, independence-seeking woman in “The Office,” a story from early in Munro's career that plays on Virginia Woolf's “A Room of One's Own.”

The funny, smart would-be fiction writer (who admittedly feels presumptuous calling herself one), rents an office space in an attempt to practice her craft away from her all-consuming house – only to be distracted and disturbed by the owner Mr. Malley, who brings her unwanted gifts: a huge plant, an ugly expensive teapot, a wastebasket and cushion for her chair, and an unwanted relationship.

Paul Finocchiaro brings a believable creepiness to Malley, while the ensemble adds the wonderful, often whimsical Word for Word touch, by, for example, acting out descriptions of household knickknacks and paintings of dogs.

The show's second half is “Dolly,” a humorous and deep story from 83-year-old Munro's most recent collection about a mature, content couple who are unexpectedly derailed by a strange visitor.

Sheila Balter is a delight as the Woman, who, like the main character in “The Office,” is thoughtful and introspective. She writes biographies about underappreciated Canadian writers and her lanky older husband Frank (an appealing, laid-back Howard Swain), who wrote poetry back in the day, still rides his horse.

When the woman uncharacteristically answers her door and invites in the friendly, ruddy makeup saleswoman, Gwen (Susan Harloe), who, it turns out, has a past with Frank, the couple's world turns upside down – in ways that are hilarious, moving and profound.

Although written more than 40 years apart, “The Office” and “Dolly” both exemplify Munro's genius in exploring and exposing the contrasting inner and outer lives of everyday people. The skillful, dedicated artists in Word for Word _ which first took on Munro in 1991 with the story “Friend of My Youth” – bring them all to another equally powerful level.

REVIEW

Stories by Alice Munro

Presented by Word for Word

Where: Z Below, 450 Florida St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes April 12

Tickets: $35 to $55

Contact: (866) 811- 4111, www.zspace.org

Alice MunroartsOfficeWord for Word

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read