Amusing, profound ponderings in ‘Viral’ 

click to enlarge Wonders of technology: Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen play several characters whose personal lives become Internet sensations. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Wonders of technology: Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen play several characters whose personal lives become Internet sensations.

“FWD: Life Gone Viral” is about much more than the foibles of 21st-century technology. Both funny and profound, it’s a vivid story about relationships in modern times.

The show, onstage at The Marsh, stars local theater veterans Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen, playing all of the roles. They co-wrote the piece with longtime friend and collaborator David Ford, who directs with finesse.

Clearly in synch, the trio has come up with a thought-provoking, always engaging tale about two couples whose relationships have disintegrated, and the greater havoc wreaked when details of their lives go online.

Varon, known for wondrous one-man shows including “Rabbi Sam” and “Rush Limbaugh in Night School,” plays Adam Roth, a modern-day philosopher (who makes Claymation films about Socrates) whose oncologist, Dr. Lillian Steinberg (Cohen), gives him what should be happy news: His medical records got mixed up and he really doesn’t have a terminal illness after all.

Still, Adam remains spellbound by a powerful “cancer of blame” video on YouTube in which fatally diagnosed Donald Saperstein (Varon) offers healing words to the masses — he’s got more than 1 million hits, and Adam keeps counting them.

Complicating matters: Donald’s estranged wife is Lillian, who claims his video is bunk, and Adam’s ex-wife, Ellen Green (Cohen), is loud, intelligent, opinionated — and keeping tabs on him using a miniature spy drone, a device in the doctor’s office that looks like a fly.

As Adam takes a shine to Lillian, he shoots a video of her on his iPhone, capturing her articulate reaction to Donald’s viral success and her hope that her own death won’t be documented — that death is overwhelming, random, unfair and born of necessity. Reluctantly, she agrees to let him post it — with more complex, and laugh-inducing, repercussions.

Wonderfully embodying all of the characters, and moving swiftly between them, Varon and Cohen are acting at the top of their game, and clearly enjoying the fruits of research — much of the Internet activity they describe in the show is true — of their creative collaboration.

Packed with pithy observations about life, death, family, communication, human nature, time and technology, “FWD: Life Gone Viral” is both entertaining and deeply satisfying.

FWD: Life Gone Viral

Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., (near 22nd Street), S.F.

When: 8 p.m. most Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes June 10

Tickets: $15 to $50

Contact: (415) 282-3055,

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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