"Dolls" is a new one-man play, written and performed by Michael Phillis and directed by Andrew Nance, which has been running since January 22 and is now in its last weekend at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center, at 25 Van Ness Avenue, off Market Street. I caught "Dolls" on February 19 and-should it come East, as its powers-that-be would like-can heartily recommend that New Yorkers experience the wise, wild, whimsical, and very gay world of Phillis' "Dolls" as well.
In "Dolls," we learn about Frank-a shy gay man with a number of issues and adult owner of a varied doll collection -mostly through monologues by, or dialogues between, several of his dolls, the articulate-in the senses of possessing both hitherto unsuspected eloquence and movable extremities-and inarticulate-in a single position in perpetuity and virtual pariahs. We also learn a great deal about human nature, thanks to the vivid figures that Phillis depicts.
Dealt with here are diversity and disharmony, dogmatism and disenchantment, as the dolls inevitably take on characteristics of their human. Like people, the dolls are divided into a rather rigid hierarchy and by dissention about just who has seniority and greatest value in the collection.
It is "orientation day" for new dolls that Frank acquired for Christmas. Novices are guided and given some history lessons, welcomed and firmly instructed about rules and regulations by a "beautiful bisque porcelain Southern belle," known as Top Shelf, sugary, lacy, garrulous, grand, and tough President of the United Shelves of Frank's Collection; a personable gay and gossipy action figure, nicknamed the General; the racially diverse knockoffs, the Beach Bum Bens, presiding over a shelf where off-brands and brand name dolls engage in bitter battle; and from the purgatory of the lowest shelf, or worse, consigned to the hell of the drawer, a nameless "inarticulate." All are clearly delineated and engagingly realized by Phillis. We also get, in pantomime, a few glimpses of Frank at different ages-and, as disclosed by the dolls, of his formidable mother.
"Dolls" continues here through February 22 and remaining tickets, from $15 to 25, are available at www.nctcsf.org
or by calling 415/861-8972.