In the past, Erin Cressida Wilson's plays have paced around a peculiar, complex terrain --- where fable-like whimsy, family dysfunction, precocious sexuality and hard urban reality meet --- to effects variably provocative and pretentious. Her latest, however, mixes all of the above into a delightfully inventive whole. As its title suggests, "The Trail of Her Inner Thigh" is a poetical road trip whose attractions are both inviting and risky.
In the past, Erin Cressida Wilson’s plays have paced around a peculiar, complex terrain — where fable-like whimsy, family dysfunction, precocious sexuality and hard urban reality meet — to effects variably provocative and pretentious. Her latest, however, mixes all of the above into a delightfully inventive whole. As its title suggests, “The Trail of Her Inner Thigh” is a poetical road trip whose attractions are both inviting and risky.
That steam-heat tenor is set by a short prologue in which protagonist Kasper (Sean San Jose) admires the tattooed female names on his own well-toned torso, while women gyrate in the background to a slow disco thump. Kasper was a San Francisco Mission District teen in 1978 when 30-something hippie chick Patricia (Lise Steindler) made him her love toy in the back of a VW van. Then she got pregnant, fled to the Southwest and sent a baby girl announcement by telegram. The news panicked him into lost annums of speed-freak excess.
Fifteen years later, he’s suddenly ready to face the music; his ailing mother (Fe Bongolan) instructs him to “find your daughter to be a man.” Kasper buzzes down to Arizona, hoping to find his family — and is promptly spotted by hot-pants-wearing offspring Jolene (Rachelle Mendez), who’s channeled her missing-father jones into nymphet misbehavior. She finds him “sexy like Johnny Depp”; the bond is immediate, albeit a bit too physical for paternal comfort. Even more volatile is the reunion with Patricia, now a beauty-parlor owner and wary veteran of many hard-living storms.
Reeling, Kasper splits for Vegas, where such Eros-addled disarray attracts a prostitute (Selana Allen) who sticks like Super Glue. He tries to shake her on the road, heading into the desert. But runaway Jolene is also on his trail, followed by Patricia’s fierce maternal instincts. An extra-sensory dose of the same brings mama Maria in from S.F. as well. All paths intersect for a finale that seems incomplete despite all willful ambivalence.
“Inner Thigh” has some digressive, overarching moments. But Wilson manages to meld myriad elements into a heady brew here, one that tempers gamier aspects with frequent, snap-attitude hilarity. Inner thoughts (about one-third in Spanish) seamlessly commingle with external dialogue. Co-directors Rhodessa Jones and Margo Hall’s Campo Santo production turns this curvy psychological journey outward via sequences that deploy choreographic, even acrobatic movement to giddy impact.
Wilson has often collaborated with actor San Jose, and this piece is custom-fit for the Bay Area stage fave — this friendly ghost exudes libido, machismo and do-right intent in panicky spades. Also standing out amid the fine ensemble is Allen, displaying formidable comic chops in three roles. Marcus Shelby’s jazz score sets an aptly playful, sensual tone.