Funny slice of S.F. life in ‘91 Owl’ 

Burgeoning playwright Bernard Norris has done a fine job with “The 91’ Owl,” what appears to be his first production, a low- to no-budget affair now onstage at the African American Arts Cultural Complex through Thursday.

Norris, also producer and co-director of the show about the day in the life of a San Francisco bus stop, does best with the script, which is often funny and offers a realistic, cross-cultural view of the many types of folks one might come across while waiting for transit at Broadway and Kearny Street. 

While most of the characters aren’t painted with incredible depth, they’re nonetheless vivid, and either thoughtful or thought-provoking, from the legless, alcoholic Korean War vet to the troublemaker Latino kid to the affable pothead in the knit hat, a white guy who thinks he’s black.

Then there’s the would-be young couple of high-schoolers, the handsome, shy black guy who falls for, but is afraid to talk to, the fair, and uenexpectedly receptive, beauty. A heavy-accented Asian woman collecting cans for recycling asks, “Why are you people so mad at me?”

While there’s not much in the way of plot, the pastiche of vignettes is continuously entertaining.

A soundscape of urban music and other city noises by DJ Roxwell and Sean McCann functions well, as does a light design by Julien Elstob.

What’s lacking is crisp direction (Elbert Thompson and Abraham Frailey join Norris in the task), steady pacing and creative staging, which gives the show a decidedly amateur effect.

Despite uneven acting – some actors, including Norris’ friends, are new to the vocation – the performers make up for in spirit what they lack in skill.

“The 91’ Owl” is a swell foray into the world of local theater for Norris, a San Francisco self-starter who, with his ideas and drive, has nowhere to go but up.

THEATER REVIEW

The 91’ Owl

Where: African American Arts Cultural Complex, 762 Fulton Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday
Tickets: $12 to $15
Contact: (415) 574-8908; www.brownpapertickets.com

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

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Leslie Katz

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