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Bruce Pachtman Acts "Psychotic" for 10 More Weeks
By Kathryn Guta
Next time you break up with someone, try doing what Noe Valley playwright Bruce Pachtman did. Try using the grist of a failed romance to write a one-man show celebrating the triumph of getting out of love with the wrong person.
Since they met in 1996, Pachtman's ex-girlfriend has given him a lot of grief, yet he owes it to her for suggesting a catchy title for his autobiographical play Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic. The solo work has been so successful, it ran for six months last year at the Bannam Place Theater in North Beach. Now it's reopening at the same theater on Feb. 2, for a 10-week engagement.
Pachtman says Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic is the story of a 40-something Noe Valley guy (Pachtman) and "Gloria," a sexy, intelligent woman who sends out conflicting messages. Gloria admits to having had the best first date of her life with Pachtman and then announces that they can't see each other again.
As it happens, they do see each other again, dating for a whirlwind but catastrophic month, which runs the emotional gamut from tantric sex to cold and forbidding rejection. Learning that Pachtman is a writer, Gloria wants to become his muse, but she has second thoughts, fearing that she might look too psychotic.
While not exactly psychotic, she is a controller, teasing Pachtman through sex and alarming him with her alcohol use and wildly erratic moods.
Still, he keeps going back for more. Finally, however, denial bites the dust, and Pachtman wakes up to see the real Gloria when she passes out from drinking too much booze at a Passover feast.
"The victory was in the breakup," he says. "It wasn't the first time I'd gotten into a relationship like that, and I was happy that it stopped after only a month."
By the way, Pachtman doesn't think the real "Gloria" has seen the play. "Well, maybe she's sent a friend."
From his earliest days when he cut up with his four siblings in Philadelphia, Pachtman has liked to laugh. After graduating from Penn State in 1976, he joined two alumni chums to become the Comedy Clinic, a group doing Saturday Night Livetype comedy skits and sharing the same New York stage with Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy at the Comic Strip.
In 1980, Chris Columbus, who later went on to write Gremlins and direct Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, cast Pachtman in a student film at New York University. The success of this film brought Pachtman to the attention of the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, which listed such notables as Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in its registry. These were the "days of possibilities," when Pachtman dreamed of joining the pantheon of Hollywood stars. He was considered for the lead roles of War Games and Gremlins, but wound up living in L.A. for six years, supporting himself handing out towels at Le Hot Tub and teaching the young children of Hollywood stars.
Arriving in San Francisco 12 years ago, Pachtman settled on Steiner Street and then on Dolores Street nine years ago. Again, he worked as a kindergarten teacher and also fielded calls at a child resources switchboard.
Four years ago, comedy came back into his life when he took a performance class at the Noe Valley home of well-known solo performer Charlie Varon. Pachtman then developed Psychotic at the Marsh Theater on Valencia Street, with a support and rehearsal group of six solo performers named Club Solo. He says he's especially grateful to Kim Porter and Randy Rutherford for their help in midwifing his 80-minute play--his first full-length production.
Four years after his first date with Gloria, Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic opened at the Bannam Place Theater on April 14, 2000. It was scheduled to run for six weeks but continued to play for a dizzying six months, closing in October. "Still, I didn't get any dates with women from it," laughs Pachtman.
Through the performance of his solo play some 65 times, Pachtman has gained great insight into his relationships. But habits do repeat themselves. When Pachtman found himself again in the same type of relationship that he had left behind, Club Solo became his collective therapist, warning him that he was headed for sure disaster.
He also has learned from the personal feedback he receives from the audiences at his shows. "I see all my choices in life as doing therapy--choices such as living in an expensive city like San Francisco on a childcare worker's salary. Or borrowing the money to put on a show. Just tell your readers to come bail me out!"
Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic runs Feb. 2 through April 7 on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. Bannam Place Theater is located at 50A Bannam Place near Grant and Green in North Beach. To purchase tickets ($17), go to ticketweb.com. For more information, visit Bruce Pachtman's web site at toopsychotic.com or call 415-986-4607.