Meetup #25: Rinne Groff’s 77%

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To celebrate two fantastic years of Works by Women SF, our Meetup group saw a play by the first playwright we featured in our Plays by Women series: Rinne Groff (The Ruby Sunrise, Jimmy Carter was a Democrat). 77% was a part of the San Francisco Playhouse Sandbox Series.

From SF Playhouse: “The mission of The Sandbox is to promote new works utilizing top-notch directors and actors. The presentations have limited design elements and are be promoted primarily online thus reducing the costs and risk of each production.  By reducing risk, the Sandbox Series is designed to bridge the gap between “readings” and “main stage” productions and thus provide increased exposure to the new voices in American Theater.”

What happens when “A high-powered businesswoman, her stay-at-home husband and her socialite mother wrestle with the decision to  have another child, while the father braves a squall with his schooner in the Chesapeake Bay”? Arts Scene calls this marital comedy an “all-winner”.

Eminent Bay Area theater critic Robert Hurwitt praises the production as “100 percent engaging”. In his review, he writes:

“…it’s the ways the actors develop and exploit these cracks under Marissa Wolf’s direction that makes “77%” almost 100 percent engaging. Wolf, who’ll soon be leaving her post as artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater for Kansas City Rep (a de facto consolation prize for the World Series loss), orchestrates the flow of Groff’s many short scenes so smoothly that the momentum seems continuous, and the subtext within the scenes so delicately that Eric and Melissa’s bickering or side-by-side texting can feel like foreplay.

(Arwen) Anderson captivatingly depicts the forces unsettling Melissa’s equilibrium, from her fierce joy in her work and love of Eric to her frustrations with him, tensions with her mother, fear for her father and doubts, all under the hormonal onslaught of fertility treatments. (Patrick) Russell is magnetic in his struggles to control his anger, more at himself than her, and indiscretions — and particularly delightful in a borderline inappropriate bonding scene with (Karen) Grassle’s slyly surprising Frankie. The electronic pings, rings and whooshes of Madeleine Oldham’s sound design almost serve as a fourth actor driving the story.”

This production is directed by Marissa Wolf (The Taming), and features AEA actors Arwen Anderson and Karen Grassle. Other women on the production include Madeleine Oldham(sound design), Jordan Puckett (lighting design,  also SF Playhouse Literary Manager and Sandbox Production Manager),Maya Linke (set design), Miyuki Bierlein (costume design),Leah Hammond (props design), and Katherine Sumi (stage manager).  Additional women on SF Playhouse staff include:Susi Damilano (SF Playhouse Managing/Producing Director,Lauren English (Casting Director), Jessica Charles (box office/front of house), Natalie Hermosilla(bartender/concessions) and Tiiu Eva Rebane (Box Office Manager)

If you were part of the Meetup or saw the play and have a thought to share, you know what to do!

Image courtesy San Francisco Playhouse

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12 responses to “Meetup #25: Rinne Groff’s 77%

  1. I have to say my favorite part of the play was the “77%” payoff. Just heartwarming and delightful. The acting was uniformly terrific.

    And, dang —- I should have gone out with all you wonderful women afterward, because traffic was so bad it took me an hour to get out of the City! Live and learn.

    Thanks again, Valerie and Christine, for organizing!

    • Thanks Patricia! I really liked that moment as well, especially because of how static so much of the play was – that payoff moment moment really stood out!

  2. This play is so well shaped! Many scenes are very static physically – car rides, office waiting, phone calls, but Rinne Groff’s writing rings very true, the acting is solid and incredibly clear, and Marissa Wolf’s direction is sharp. I’d love to hear what folks think, especially comparing these characters to those in Rapture Blister Burn.

    • One point of disappointment (or maybe confusion) for me was this: the Karen Grassle character’s change of heart (from not wanting the IVF to wanting the IVF) happened offstage. So I never got to see her grapple with the question. Her husband wanted to shut down/not hear her concerns. I worried it was just a whim, or worse, a change of heart primarily to please her husband.

      • Patricia – I thin you mean Arwen Anderson’s character – Karen Grassle played the mother. And for me, that character’s ambivalence about IVF seemed more connected to emotions in the moment, and was more about doubting her relationship to her husband than not wanting the IVF. So when that relationship improved, the IVF could go forward.

  3. I really enjoyed my first meet up. Thank you to Valerie and Christine and Anne for making me feel so welcome

    77% was on of the best, most satisfying shows I’ve seen over the past year. Superb writing (makes me want to read all of Rinne Groff’s work), great acting and directing. The ticket price was A STEAL! given the quality of the show. It was charming and truthful and helps one feel good about being human. Theater has many purposes to serve. Helping us feel good about being human is one of its most noble.

    Although this was my first meet up with the group, I did see Rapture Blister Burn on my own. Rapture seem to be struggling in many ways. And it’s tough to convey as much history lesson and philosophical discussion as Rapture seemed to want to do without killing the show. But I’m a succor for Pulitzer prize winners and finalists. Rapture was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist. I’d give it another chance, directed, acted, and staged by a another group.

  4. Excellent performances. Sensitive portrayal of a marriage, giving weight to both the ups and the downs of a relationship. It ended on a tentatively positive note–for the moment, because life goes on and the equilibrium in a relationship can shift again. It was an ending that felt earned, and not tacked on. And as a writer, I know how hard that is! Wished I could have seen it with the group!

    • I love this idea of tentative positivity – and I think it’s one of the ways that makes this play similar to RBB – the ending there is trying so hard to make it to a positive and hopeful place, but there’s so much uncertainty too.

    • thanks Anne – Kansas City is very lucky to be getting director Marissa Wolf and her clear vision!

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