As city officials, residents, and popular culture endlessly debate the tech sector's multifaceted impact on the Bay Area, Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side), which opened last night at PianoFight, dives right in. Moving fast and hitting hard, the eight-person cast of Stuart Bousel's semi-autobiographical play presents a series of vignettes that alternately evoke knowing laughs and moments of frustrated self-reflection.
Following the main character Stuart as he places his artistic dreams on (temporary, we're sure) hold to get a part-time job as an office manager at a startup, the play operates from the vantage point of the tech outsider — skeptical, aloof (even as he literally becomes a "techie" by virtue of his paycheck), and yet all the while convinced of his own superiority. Needless to say, his understanding of his place in a constantly evolving city changes over the course of the 80-minute play as Stuart realizes that, just like him, his coworkers in the unnamed and undefined company are really just trying to make do.
Directed by Allison Page, the co-artistic director of sketch comedy company Killing My Lobster, the structure of the piece feels at times like a series of sketches tied together with the through line of Stuart's personal disillusionment. And, for the most part, that's a good thing. The show opens quickly and moves fast — with some scenes lasting under a minute — initially not sacrificing jokes for plot (again, in this case, a good thing). The pace begins to slow about halfway through as the story takes hold, and by that point the audience, like the story's character, is fully engaged with the world Page and Bousel have created.
While the show definitely is funny, some of the most memorable lines are jokes only in the "life's a joke" sense — an aside about Stuart blowing his retirement plan on rent evoked a sadly knowing guffaw from this reviewer. In the end, the show doesn't condescend to its audience — regardless of how they manage to pay their rent — and strong performances from Amanda Rosenberg, Casey Spiegel, and Derek Jones are a treat.
Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side), which runs through July 16, is nice a reminder that just like Stuart's love-hate relationship with Facebook, it's OK to feel conflicted about (and laugh at) the changes in San Francisco that we're perhaps all, in our own way, contributing to.
Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side) runs from June 23 through July 16 at PianoFight. Tickets range from $15 to $40.