Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side)

by Adam Brinklow

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 30, 2016

Adventures in Tech (with Pillow Talk on the Side)

"Adventures in Tech (With Pillow Talk On the Side)" at PianoFight bills itself as "inspired by actual conversations." But the opening scene is a rainy day in San Francisco, so we can assume that these conversations were not particularly recent.

It's a more or less autobiographical program by Stuart Bousel (who is presently playing the Pope a few blocks away at the EXIT), about that time he grudgingly took a tech job. Here Bousel is played as a bit of a sympathetic drip by Dan Kurtz, who is a software developer on top of being an actor and therefore can stake a claim that this is the part he was born (or at least singularly educated) to play.

Stuart (the character) takes a gig at as the manager of a SoMa startup at an office whose only initial employee is himself. He agonizes over what this means for his identity as an artist but goes along with it anyway, since three meals a day are hard to come by on agony alone. He's not even sure what the company does, which we gather is not an uncommon problem.

The cast gradually fills up with oddball coworker characters (presumably composites of real people), including an Australian programmer whose accent floats around a bit (Kevin Glass) and a geek chic woman (Emily Keyishian) who could be falling for Stu despite the fact that he might as well be wearing an "I'm gay" T-shirt. (That plot thread regrettably disappears along the line).

The pillow talk part of the title comes in the form of occasional cuddle sessions with boyfriend Casey Spiegel (who makes quite a lot out of the relatively simple role). And that's about all there is to it as far as plot: It's just vignettes of people playing off each other as our reluctant techie falls into the groove of things.

But just talking about a play like "Adventures in Tech" tends to ruin it, because you can't communicate its best elements. In this case, its plausibly weird sense of humor, Kurtz's grudging relatability, and how cathartic its sense of anxiety can be.

That may not sound great when we just spell it out, but that's why we're not the playwright here.

For as likable as it is, though, "Adventures in Tech" tends to be a hot mess. The constant blackout scene changes (some only about a minute apart) are incredibly distracting, and often smother punch lines. Unrelated tableaus of everyday San Franciscans going through some ordeal are sprinkled throughout, in an effort to foster everyday atmosphere. It feels forced.

And, like real life, the show has no particular conclusion and just wraps up after a sufficient amount of time. That last one is maybe unavoidable, but the rest of the show needs cleanup and pruning. Every time the curtain opens for a messy scene change (many of which aren't needed) and reveals a bank of distracting lights from the nearby tech board, it gets a little more annoying.

Yes, the play is untidy, and we can't shake the feeling that the material would be better as fodder for, say, a standup routine, or YouTube. That said, it's good at the most important things, and its casual vibe is usually hard to capture outside of solo shows. A mixed bag, but worth reaching into.

"Adventures in Tech (With Pillow Talk On the Side)" plays through July 16 at PianoFight, 144 Taylor Street. For tickets and information, go to