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Meet The Play Group

April 9, 2008

Being a passionate devotee of Slings & Arrows, the brilliantly written and incandescently acted Canadian TV series about the inner workings of a big regional theatre company, I was excited to stumble across an article in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle about a new video podcast series. The series concerns a group of young theatremakers as they journey towards putting on a black-box stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky's The Double in San Francisco.

A collaboration between podcaster Bill Bowles, playwright Eric Henry Sanders, and a coterie of hipsterish 20-something Bay Area thespians, Meet The Play Group is described in the paper as "a refreshing new series that will appear to fans of The Office and Waiting for Guffman."

Obviously, I'm delighted to see the San Francisco theatre scene depicted on screen -- and made fun off in a loving way too. I'm hoping that the series' three-minute videocasts, which air three times a week on the Internet, gather steam as the story moves along. But the few episodes I've caught so far don't give me a great deal of confidence that the project will take off. The scrappy, hand-held camera work and improvisatory acting style are meant to convey a rough-around-the-edges aesthetic. But after a while, the slipshod shots of peoples' feet and scenes depicting actors complaining in whiny voices and primping self-consciously in front of the camera get a bit wearing.

I'm all for exploring new ways to put the Bay Area performing arts scene on the map, but I don't particularly want the region transformed into a theatrical flyover zone. Still, maybe the series will improve as it goes along.

Episodes of Meet The Play Group can be found at www.meettheplaygroup.com.

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