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'Goldfish' at the Magic Theatre: It’s a Metaphor

Why are you the person you are? Were you deeply and/or direly affected by your childhood? Inevitably wrecked or redeemed by past lovers? Somehow disseminated by that tuna melt at the roadside Idaho diner in 2002? We all have a different story about how and why we’re the person we’ve become. Goldfish, now in its last weekend at Magic Theatre, explores that question for two college students – a young man who raises his own father and then flees home and the woman he meets mid-flight. His new love turns our hapless hero inside out, possibly the result of a lingering malaise from her own childhood under the thumb of a veritable tornado of a mother.

Playwright John Kolvenbach, raised in a loud, boisterous family in New York, is fascinated by the roots upbringing has in the psyche. Goldfish (followed by its sequel Mrs. Whitney) is quirky and romantic, with most of the action happening beneath the surface – much as it does in real-life, where nothing is scripted and tangles are a given. Spartan language reveals intense undercurrents as these young lovers pay for the sins of their parents. Yet it’s still a comedy, albeit a quiet one, and a perfect demonstration of how small life experiences are so universal. And, yes, there’s a goldfish.

Goldfish plays through November 8 at Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center. 415-441-8822 or www.magictheatre.org.