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One Award-Winning Play, Five Theatre Critics And 47 Slices Of Pizza

February 19, 2007

On Friday, Theatre Bay Area announced the winner of the 2006 Glickman Award. Judged by a team of five local critics, the prize honors the best play that received a world premiere in the Bay Area over the course of the year. The winner this time is Hunter Gatherers, written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and produced by Killing My Lobster. The play had its world premiere last Summer at the Thick House in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.

As one of the five critics on the award panel (alongside The Chronicle's Rob Hurwitt, The Oakland Tribune's Chad Jones, The San Jose Mercury News' Karen D'Souza, and The San Francisco Bay Guardian's Rob Avila), I was very pleased with the choice. It was the only play of the year to make all of our "Top 5" lists. Though looking back on last Monday's decision-making meeting, it's hard to take the decision-making process seriously, when you consider how the discussion progressed.

I should preface the following attempt to reconstruct the gist of our conversation by saying that Goat Hill Pizza might be the very worst place in the entire city to try to hold a discussion about art with a group of people. The place was packed and noisy and the tables were rammed together so close that you could reach over and steal pizza from the child's plate across the aisle. Even more hazardously, waiters kept appearing every couple of minutes trying to offload slices on us. But us theatre critics are equipped with large appetites and undiscriminating palettes, so "Eat All You Can Night" at Goat Hill Pizza seemed like a natural choice. There's a reason, after all, why we write about Shakespeare rather than shirinberej* and Pinter rather than petit pois.

The conversation went something like this:

"OK. Shall we start?"
"OK."
"Wait a sec, I need to get some salad."
[Pause while two critics get up to go to the salad bar.]
"So then. Who wants to say what their favorite plays of the year were first?"
"Sorry, what was that?"
"Why don't you tell us what plays are on your list?"
"Oh. OK. I've got..."
"Hi. Who wants pepperoni and asparagus?"
"Me please."
"I'll take one too."
"Me too."
"Thanks."
"I thought the best plays were [Critic reels of list of plays]"
"Hunter Gatherers was great, wasn't it?"
"Chicken, mozarrella and olives anyone?
"Sure."
"What kind of pizza is it?"
"Chicken and something."
"Sure."
"I'll have a slice of that."
"I liked Hunter Gatherers too. But what about [critic reels off a few other names of plays] ?"
"Damn, I missed seeing that one. It was good, huh?"
"Spinach and feta?"
"Yeah, I'll take a slice."
"Me too."
"Yeah, it was a great play. Pity you missed it."
"Bummer."
"I liked Hunter Gatherers a great deal. It was so rich. Plus he's a local playwright on his way up."
"But the other play of his I saw last year, what was it called?"
"Colorado."
"Yes, Colorado. That one wasn't so good."
"Can I offer you Four cheeses?"
"What did he say?"
"Cheese. It's a cheese pizza."
"You guys should try dipping your crusts into this blue cheese dressing. So yummy."

Etc. Etc. You get the idea.

It wasn't a very dignified way to perform an assessment of a year of very varied theatre going. But the experience was cheap and tasty and therefore appropriate. The winning play, (did I mention it's called Hunter Gatherers?) is all about people dropping their "sophisticated" exteriors and acting on their innermost basic instincts, like eating off the floor and throwing food at each other. The plot even features a goat massacre, which makes last Monday's pizza slugging competition at Goat Hill seem almost poetic.

*Shirinberej is a Persian sweet meat. I didn't know this prior to doing a search on Google for foods that begin with "sh" so that I'd have something that alliterates with "Shakespeare."

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