They came to have a good time, and indeed they did.
Once again, playgoers at B Street Theatre in Sacramento enjoyed a world premiere Christmas show – the 23rd year in a row that they’ve been offered one.
This year, the audience had its ribs tickled through A MOVING DAY, a comedy collaboration concocted by Dave Pierini, one of the theater’s artistic producers, and Buck Busfield, who’s been B Street’s producing artistic director for the last 22 years.
The two playwrights told the story of Frank and Casey, a pair of moving men who have been hired by a bank and realtor. Their task is to remove any furniture or bric-a-brac from a house that’s since been foreclosed.
Frank, the boss, has been on the job so long that he doesn’t even think about the (literally) poor souls who lived there or what had happened to them; he just wants to get everything out and get out of there.
Perhaps Frank is more ornery than usual because he’s having marital problems. We can infer that Karen, his wife – or shall we say, ex-wife to be – is no longer the “Mama Bear” that he’s endearingly dubbed her. She’s growling at him like a grizzly based on how he responds to her on the phone.
Because Casey is a new employee, he hasn’t been desensitized to other people’s misery. So he’ll do anything he can to forestall even the eviction of furniture and possessions.
Both men will face a bigger obstacle: Patrick Ignatius, who’s still on the scene, although he has no legal right to be. Frank wants him out right now; Casey is intrigued by the squatter and wants to hear what Patrick has to say.
“The bank may own this house,” Patrick admits, “but it’s my home.”
And I am telling you, he is not going.
Neither is a woman called Mouse who makes an occasional appearance. Let’s just say that Charles Dickens would approve of her.
Karen shows up, too, and surprises us. She’s totally unlike the castrating harpy that Frank has led us to believe she was. (That’s what we get for believing one-sided conversations.) Oh, Karen’s a little ditsy, to be sure, but if her head isn’t in the right place, her heart is.
On second thought, maybe her head is, too: “I’m tired of you,” she says to Frank.
And that brings us to one of the great assets of thrust-stage seating: you can always see the reactions of two-thirds of the house. It was oft said at SISTER MARY IGNATIUS EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU that from the audience reactions one could tell which attendees were Catholics (or at least raised as such) and which were not. From the looks of sad recognition on some of faces in the B Street crowd, one could pick out the marrieds from the singles; the resigned non-smiles, the slow nods of heads, the murmurs of recognition – all acknowledged that the playwrights had hit both the bull’s eye and cow’s eye.
These couples too felt that they knew everything they could ever know about their spouses and that lifetime sentences would drag on to make them even more tired of their mates.
And yet … and yet … the playwrights wanted to impart another message. Despite a spouse’s truly feeling that he or she knows everything about the other, there’s still so much to learn. Suddenly the looks on the faces of those husbands and wives showed that A MOVING DAY had given them something on which to ruminate and discuss on their way home.
Busfield directed the 70-minute show with zip and verve, for despite those last two paragraphs, A MOVING DAY had flat-out fun on its mind, too. The audience gave out “Mmmmms” of nostalgia when Patrick, saying he grew up in this house, made a mention of seeing SPEED RACER there. More to the point, you know an audience is having a good time when, as soon as one scene ends with a quick blackout, the crowd just-as-quickly applauds in approval.
Speaking of moving, A MOVING DAY was the final time that B Street patrons would see a show on B Street. To be sure, Busfield is grateful to the citizens of Sacramento for finding their way to this off-the-beaten path suburban-ish neighborhood where you wouldn’t expect to find a legitimate theater. Starting later this month, the company will still reside on the corner of 27th Street, but twenty-two blocks south on Capitol Avenue right in the heart of midtown.
Like many regional theaters that manage to survive and succeed for a decade or two, B Street will now have a spanking new tailor-made facility. Although the organization will abandon its address, it’ll retain its name. Just as The George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey didn’t change its moniker when it left George Street for Livingston Avenue, so too will B Street Theatre be B now and forever.
Better still, B Street will have two theaters, one with 365 seats, and another with 250. What is surprising is that the larger space is the one earmarked for children’s attractions, which is how the company actually started – as Theatre for Children, Inc. in 1986. Plenty of shows for schoolchildren will rule the bigger space by day, while musicians, comics and lecturers will be occupy it by night.
The 40,000 square-foot complex is named for Sofia Tsakopoulos, for she and her husband Angelo contributed millions to the effort. The Sofia, as it will be chummily called, will debut with ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS. Considering the physicality of Richard Bean’s mistaken-identity farce, the newly acquired fly space and trap doors are sure to be employed.
God love The Sutter Medical Center which owned the land and donated it so the new theater could be built. Although hospitals are known for getting people physically healthy, Sutter is obviously aware that their city’s mind and spirit must stay or become robust, too.
The two companies became acquainted when B Street brought its entertainers to the hospital to perform for ailing child patients. Trips to the neighborhood had Busfield wondering about a property that looked as if it’d be great for a new theater. As luck would have it, Sutter did. A meeting with Sacramento’s mayor Joe Serna, Jr. got matters going. But it was the troupe’s largesse in producing shows and running workshops that brought B Street and Sutter together. Isn’t it nice when nice things happen after people do nice things?
So to all those in Sacramento or those who visit: B there or B square.