Mick Renner's Velma, a solo performance named after his mother and dealing largely with his life with her when he was a child, is a superbly acted and convincing portrait, despite the fact it takes awhile to ignore the fact you're watching a man in his late sixties, wearing street clothes, sans wig or make-up (except for maybe a bit of lipstick), acting as a woman from her twenties into her early forties. Broken into three acts which take place during his youth, and bookended by an epilogue and prologue featuring his mom at her mirror, Velma comes across as an interesting woman, though she's certainly not the trailblazer the promotional material would lead one to believe. The play moves along well enough as Renner portrays himself, his relatives and his pals with charm and wit, engaging the audience with his well-developed script and delivery.

Suddenly, out of nowhere in the early part of the third act he pulls the rug out from under the audience by introducing an element to the story that seems meant to shock but only repulses with its abrupt insertion into the play. Probably intended as a revealing, critical moment, it arrives as more of a "What the fuck?" What was obviously a horrible blindsiding in real-life doesn't necessarily play well onstage without a set-up. Once the play veers off in this direction it felt increasingly uncomfortable and self-absorbed, leaving the terrain of poignant memoir and tribute for the lowlands of victimhood and abuse. Had this part of Velma's story been hinted at earlier in the play, its arrival wouldn't feel like such a sudden derailment.  At the conclusion, Renner offered to stay and discuss the play with anyone in the audience who wished to, but I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. Velma plays at the San Francisco Fringe Festival one more time on September 15 at 1:00 PM.