S.F. Mime Troupe Sets Sail for Affordable Housing
by Madelaine Bixler
Anyone living in the Bay Area today can tell you that we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Class divisions are at an all-time high as the price of living skyrockets, while wages remain pitifully low. With tech tycoons flooding the market, recent college grads rent couches for $850 a month, working people clamor for affordable housing, and homeless folks compete for meager shelter beds.
In Michael Gene Sullivan’s clever adaptation of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, the San Francisco Mime Troupe lives up to their reputation as a hallmark of progressive political theater. In their 60th year, the fabulous Mime Troupe boldly takes on the S.F. housing crisis with humor and style.
Using good old-fashioned agit-prop street theater, the Troupe masterfully combines slapstick comedy, commedia dell’arte, and campy musical numbers. Their parody weaves a tale of greedy pirate land developers who plunder the S.F. public coffers. All great, wholesome family fun, with City Hall hovering over them, and a pirate ship!
In parks across California, the Mime Troupe’s live band plays 60s classics as eager fans set up picnics. A bright cartoon set renders a massive boat in front of San Francisco’s City Hall—creating the illusion that city government is, itself, a sinking ship.
Playwright Michael Gene Sullivan reimagines the young Jim Hawkins as Jill Hawkins (spirited Lizzie Calogero), an idealistic civil servant who dreams of serving the people. She represents District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, SOMA, and of course Treasure Island—all historically poor neighborhoods.
The key to housing corruption in the Bay lies in an encrypted hard drive left behind by Flynn Properties—a real estate corporation which ingeniously mirrors the unspeakably cruel Captain Flint. To crack the code, Hawkins sets sail for Treasure Island, a defunct Naval Base off the coast of the city. Her journey leads her to LJ Silver (sympathetic Brian Rivera), a traitorous consultant hunting for tax breaks of his own.
Outstanding ensemble performances by Michael Gene Sullivan and Andre Amarotico expose corrupt legislators like Feinstein and Pelosi, while making the audience roll with laughter at the absurdity of our dilemma. It turns out housing is affordable, as long as you’re a millionaire!
On Treasure Island, where falsified reports conceal radiation levels 400 times the EPA limit, desperate locals (Sullivan, Amarotico, Keiko Shimosato Carreiro, and Brian Rivera) bring the reality of poverty into focus with the heart-wrenching number “How Will We Survive?”
With skyscrapers tall enough, the rich can avoid the suffering on the streets—but the Mime Troupe brings these stories front and center. With San Francisco’s politicians forcing the poor to walk the plank, we’ll need all hands on deck to fight to reclaim the only home many of us have ever known.
“Treasure Island” by Michael Gene Sullivan, directed by Wilma Bonet, by San Francisco Mime Troupe, touring Northern California, through Sunday, September 8, 2019. Info: sfmt.org
Cast: Lizzie Calogero, Keiko Shimosato Carreiro, Andre Amarotico, Brian Rivera, and Michael Gene Sullivan.