Do not take your recovering-alcoholic relative to see William Saroyan’s 1940 Pulitzer Prize–winning drama. Aside from the ensemble piece’s meandering plot, it takes place in the universe’s 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 we’re 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 McKenzie’s colorful and atmospheric production is staged in honor of Saroyan’s 100th anniversary. The play’s awkward mix of the maudlin, the turgid, and rambling bloat has aged poorly. That said, McKenzie’s 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 you’d find on Skid Row.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: March 29. Continues through June 1, 2008

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