Substantial storytelling in Bousel’s ‘Giant Bones’ 

The world premiere of Stuart Bousel’s “Giant Bones” is a big play in an admittedly small-sized venue, the 80-seat Exit Theatre in the heart of the Tenderloin.

It is a dramatization of stories from Peter S. Beagle’s “Giant Bones,” the sequel to his novel, “The Innkeeper’s Song.”

Beagle, 71, is best known for the novel and film “The Last Unicorn.” San Francisco playwright Bousel, 31, also directs the production.

The rich, attractive work, featuring an outstanding cast of 10, is certain to go on to other venues.

The play is admirably complex and riveting, but lamentably self-indulgent. It runs too long, at three hours, including intermission. Tighter writing and faster pacing would improve it greatly.

“Giant Bones” is similar to Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s “Shakespeare Wallah,” and, with a bit of a stretch, “Kiss Me Kate,” in that all follow the fortunes of a theater company.

The play begins with phantasmagorical tales, led by the title story about benevolent, fast-disappearing giants with strange rituals, which provide the work’s somewhat murky philosophical message.

Yet near the end of the first act, the audience discovers the show’s framework: The tales are enacted by a small, feisty group of actors in a mythical kingdom.

There, nasty princes seek to overthrow the king, called The Jiril (Jay Smith), and manipulate the company leader (Rik Lopes) to insert messages to their followers in the play performed at the court.

As the plays-within-plays-within-the-play unfold, the playwright and  cast members in multiple roles keep the action intriguing and understandable.

Lopes, who has the leading role in the main story, is also outstanding as the good magician struggling with Jessica Rudholm’s evil queen.

Mikka Bonel gives a thoroughly winning performance as the deceptively plain-and-simple village girl, pursued by Lopes’ pathetic king, and eventually rescued by the excessively loud B. Warden Lawlor’s magic fish.

In a primary part, Paul Rodrigues plays a good guy, but he’s even more remarkable in other roles, especially the disheveled Lord Durgh caricature and theater-company persona as Chachak.

There isn’t a weak link in the cast. Chris Struett, Katrina Bushnell, Kai Morrison and Sara Eve Breindel deliver, playing many roles and avoiding bloopers in three hours of an extremely talky play.


THEATER REVIEW
Giant Bones


Where: Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes June 19
Tickets: $20 to $30
Contact: (650) 728-8098, www.GiantBonesPlay.com

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