San Francisco Theater Review: CAN YOU DIG IT? THE ‘60’s – BACK DOWN EAST 14TH (The Marsh)

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by Tony Frankel on August 10, 2013

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


The third installment of monologuist Don Reed’s autobiographical coming-of-age trilogy has been extended yet again at the Marsh, and following on the heels of this San Francisco run, Can You Dig It? The ‘60s – Back Down East 14th will move to the Marsh Berkeley. The first installment, East 14th, traced Reed’s teen years in Oakland when his stepfather forced him to become a Jehovah’s Witness, and his biological father was a pimp. After an Off-Broadway run, Reed, the warm up Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema Bay Area review of “Can You Dig It? The ‘60s - Back Down East 14th” at The Marsh San Francisco.comedian for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, created a second installment, The Kipling Hotel, which followed his collegiate years at UCLA through the ‘80s, as he struggled to supplement a partial scholarship by working as a live-in waiter at a retirement hotel.

Now the indefatigable solo artist returns to the roots of his first show, except this time he delves into his formative years before his family broke apart. Reed’s new work is a slide show of memories in which the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. But those parts—a collection of characters crazier than those you would find in 1960s sitcoms—are alternately very funny and touching. Reed’s jump-cut style of storytelling results in some bumpy segues, but he is consistently engaging with his talent for mimicry and compassionate remembrances. His strange youth was a hotbed of personalities both young and old which he recreates with his flexible face and graceful body. Especially appealing are the moments when Reed embodies the people of his youth in dance: The way his parents danced the cha-cha through loving eyes, and the voluptuous grind of a neighbor named Candy are particularly endearing.

Reed’s irresistible charm makes his characters relatable and loveable; my favorite was Trout Mouth, one of his dad’s fellow pimps. Whether it’s bullies stealing his lunch money, or his mom owning wigs that emulated That Girl and Gilligan’s Island, or his father’s sad and enervated response to Martin Luther King’s assassination, any patron will no doubt have memories of his or her own childhood rekindled. Reed’s show is something of a hit, and even though it feels like a workshop that could use a director for the purpose of trimming and shaping, the evening is nonetheless supremely entertaining.

photos by Ric Omphroy

Can You Dig It? The ‘60s – Back Down East 14th
The Marsh San Francisco
ended on September 8, 2013 in SF
now playing at Marsh Berkeley
sceduled to end on December 15, 2013
for tickets, call (415) 282-3055 or visit

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