In William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, closing this weekend at Nimbus Arts Center, the heroine declares that names don’t mean much. A block west at Art House Productions (354 Marin Blvd.), a somewhat less famous playwright comes to a different conclusion. In Stephen Kaplan’s Tracy Jones, directed by Alex Tobey, names carry weight. A name is an anchor for identity, or an item to purloin, or something to salvage after a flood of grief.
This bittersweet comedy, which opened on Thursday night and continues at the new black box theater in the Arts District until November 5 ($45; $35 for seniors and students), is quite funny. But as giddy as it can sometimes be, it confronts a serious topic — the growing problem of American loneliness. Tracy Jones dramatizes a meeting between three stranded modern subjects searching for self-definition and human connection. Their awkwardness is exacerbated by the place where the action unfolds: a generic (and gastronomically questionable) chicken wing joint picked by the protagonist for a “personal party” that’s doomed from the start.
The Jones Street Bar and Grill location engenders most of the physical gags in Tracy Jones, and it generates quite a bit of the cringe comedy, too. By the end of the play, all the characters will be slimed by one sauce or another.