Vice’s show, onstage at the Marsh after being named best of the 2013 San Francisco Fringe Festival, tells the often funny, and surprisingly touching, story of life at Happy’s, where the tough, sassy Candy not only tends bar, but tends after her regulars: Pat, a homeless alcoholic and former boxing champion; Ace, a supermacho fellow who “has nothing but respect” for her; and Ernest, a more sophisticated type who drinks Manhattans up with a twist of orange — with a cherry being “not necessary.”
Running the show is the ultra-pleased-with-himself Rico, who repeatedly greets old and new customers: “My name’s Rico and I own the place.”
They’re as amusing as, and appealingly grittier than, the folks on “Cheers.”
Vice vividly brings the characters to life, cleverly weaving their memories and back stories into the plot at hand: Conflict arises when Candy — exercising her bartender’s right to decide who may drink and who may not (another axiom revealed in a humorous voiceover) — cuts Pat off.
In order not to embarrass him, she tells his cohorts he is seriously ill. Yet her plan backfires, in that his bar mates then insist on bringing into play a bar tradition: serving “cancer shots” to ailing patrons.
It’s clear that Vice’s turn as Candy isn’t a stretch; the actress-comedian, according to program notes, has toiled in bars for 13 years. And judging by the audience’s reaction opening night, she got the scene down perfectly. Fellow service workers in the crowd laughed heartily, offered plentiful shoutouts and clearly recognized her tales of alcohol-induced courage, recited in a hilarious broadcast-announcer tone.
Physical comedy, too, is Vice’s forte. Just one person, she manages to become a riotous barroom brawl.
Perhaps most importantly, she emphatically brings home some crucial rules of conduct for barflies: “If you cannot afford to tip, drink at home,” and, “What happens in a bar is forgotten tomorrow.”
Tipped & Tipsy
Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 5 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes April 6
Tickets: $15 to $50
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org