“Pinky” by David Templeton at Main Stage West, Sebastopol CA

Photo by Eric Chazankin: Liz Jahren (left), David Templeton

A Fairy Tale of Teenage Love

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Playwright David Templeton is well-known to Bay Area theatergoers as journalist, theatre critic and playwright. His award-winning one-man show “Wretch Like Me” was performed to wildly appreciative audiences a couple of years ago in the North Bay and San Francisco. “Pinky” started life the way few modern plays do: as a radio story, told through recollections of Templeton’s own teenage crush. Spurred on by encouragement from family and friends, Templeton fleshed out his radio narrative and breathed three-dimensional life into the characters of “Pinky”, his first non-solo show in 32 years.

In its world premiere at Main Stage West, Templeton’s walk down memory lane has been lavishly embellished with richly creative license. It presents side-splitting comedy tempered with tenderness and a sense of wonder. Through Templeton’s vividly drawn characters, this endearingly funny, imaginative tale takes on epic proportions that include feats of heroic rescue and high adventure. We get a glimpse into the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. And where else can you hear Elvish pig Latin spoken?

Liz Jahren delivers a tour-de-force performance in the title role that spans the decades. Pinky’s girlish dream is to find her own personal Prince Charming who, according to her aunt, is guaranteed to “crack your world open”. Jahren also handles other multiple roles with powerful insight and tremendous range. Through lightning-quick changes of expression and attitude, she displays great flexibility and comic timing in portraying an array of oddballs and quirky relatives.

David Templeton essentially plays himself, delivering a limber performance as a nerdy but determined love-struck teenager and an older, wised-up adult, and impersonating his various and sundry geeky friends. Young, insecure David firmly identifies with those “other guys” in fantasy games and fairy tales - the rejects and anti-heroes who are so often misunderstood and unappreciated.

One definition of magic: taking what exists only in the imagination and bringing it into the physical realm. Director Sheri Lee Miller has surely created magic onstage with her splendid work on “Pinky”. She brings tireless attention to detail and understanding of exactly how to bring each character into focus. Her vision and talent prove her a true artist of the stage. The skillful transitions in lighting by April George bring each scene into sharp relief, and help define the different characters as they flash across the actors’ faces.

“Pinky” takes actual events on a flight of fancy, a pleasure trip that packs a rock-solid punch. It catches you completely off-guard and smacks you right between the eyes even as you’re doubled over laughing. It challenges our expectations about life and love, realistic or otherwise. This is one profoundly moving show, one you just can’t stop thinking about.

When: Now through March 24
8:00 p.m Fridays & Saturdays
5:00 p.m. Sundays
8:00 p.m. Thursday shows “Pay What You Will”
Tickets $15 to $20

Main Stage West
104 North Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177