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San Francisco Fringe 2018


Sheila Rubin

Genre: Solo Performance

Venue: Exit Theatre


Low Down

Once upon a time, two sisters desperately hide their secret Cat Stevens album Tea for the Tillerman and the forbidden record player in a different dimension, then feel terror at the first sound of keys in the lock. We return to this moment in time after both have grown up and one has become a therapist. Letters from the grave may provide freedom for one and devastation for the other. We attempt to discover through magic, story and improvisation what is a magic trick and what is true magic.


This is the kind of show that is a journey, in a personal sense rather than traveling somewhere. Sheila Rubin wrote and performs this story that starts out one way, but she leads you into a different place by the end. It is clear that Rubin has been on stage before, but as a magician and her eyes light up and her face is expressive when she deftly performs several simple and entertaining magic tricks. These are part of her persona, however, she has another side, which is not showy, in fact it is humble and here she lets her story flow pensively and modestly. This is appropriate because she is part storyteller and part healer.

She uses the magic as an impetus for her lessons in life to try to let go of the stuff of the past, yet we are still in the theatre. Rubin speaks to us in a soft tone that draws us into her world. She is gentle, but is not afraid to make a change in her vocal and physical dynamics and let rip, when needed.

Onstage she has an interesting set visually, comprising two chairs, an upturned table, a stool, colorful theatrical masks and a turquoise beaded cushion. She also mimes a fascinating web around the stage and audience, it’s curious – but this is part of Rubin’s mystique and Modus Operandi. She weaves you under her spell!

Some of what she does is based in ritual or Jung and some is improvisational, but whatever she is doing she owns her space and knows what she wants to do. Rubin is human as a performer and at times infuses wry humor in her delivery, such as when describing a prior home she quips “if you go downstairs you would get bubonic plague” mixed in with banal descriptions about the laundry! 

Although slightly nervous at the performance I attended, no doubt Rubin will go from strength to strength as the Fringe continues. This show is meaningful as well as unpredictable (in a good way), it will surely take you out of your daily routine, entertain and illustrate the life and childhood challenges of others and how they affect them as adults.

Rubin tells her story with humor and sensitivity, she is disarming and delightful. Transformation is directed by Saun-Toy Trotter and together they have created a fascinating piece of Self-Revelatory performance, based in drama therapy and theatre, that is worthwhile experiencing.