Do not take your recovering-alcoholic relative to see William Saroyans 1940 Pulitzer Prizewinning drama. Aside from the ensemble pieces meandering plot, it takes place in the universes seemingly most pleasant lowbrow gin joint that also celebrates dipsomania. Wealthy businessman Joe (Robb Derringer) is a fixture at the cheesy San Francisco tavern run by jovial barkeep Nick (Christopher Shaw), who keeps a gimlet eye on the human flotsam that parades through his door. Although were not sure where the well-off Joe has gotten his money, he uses it for sheer pleasure, shelling out chunks of it on toys, chewing gum, champagne, and funds for his sad-faced pal, Tom (Matt McTighe), to woo his golden-hearted prostitute sweetheart, Kitty (Shiva Rose). Director Matt McKenzies colorful and atmospheric production is staged in honor of Saroyans 100th anniversary. The plays awkward mix of the maudlin, the turgid, and rambling bloat has aged poorly. That said, McKenzies crisp and energetic staging is powerful and intermittently moving and the show is blessed with a number of sympathetic performers. Derringer is all charm and optimistic affability as Joe, while Shaw, equal parts best friend and ambivalent Mephistopheles, is the perfect publican. Deft turns are also offered by the supporting cast, a brilliant collection of the kind of weathered-faced souls youd find on Skid Row.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: March 29. Continues through June 1, 2008