The work of beloved children’s author Shel Silverstein is mighty multifaceted. On one hand, you’ve got The Giving Tree, a poignant (if depressing) fable about motherly love, and on the other, Where the Sidewalk Ends, a rambunctious collection of verse that’s laugh-out-loud silly. But Silverstein’s career tackled more than children’s entertainment. As early as 1956, he published comics and crazy poems in the pages of Playboy. He penned songs like Johnny Cash’s hit, “A Boy Named Sue,” and Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Overshadowed by the success of his books for children, much of Silverstein’s weirder, darker humor found vent in projects like Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book and more than 100 one-act plays over the course of his career.
Silverstein’s twisted, wily sensibilities should be experienced live. A chaotic energy crackles through much of his work when a skilled performer knows how to make the most of it. With An Adult Night of Shel Silverstein, the debut production of Nob Hill’s new Hermes Theatre (136 Washington SE), Burqueños can watch 10 Silverstein skits come to life on Fridays and Saturdays in August. While the collection of skits dates back to 2001, the new version’s crown jewel is likely to be an added 11th piece—Silverstein’s epic “The Smoke-Off,” the tall tale of a high-stakes contest between Pearly Sweetcake, the quickest marijuana toker around, and the Calistoga Kid, who says he “can roll them faster than any chick can smoke.” The whole glorious thing’s rendered completely in verse.
An Adult Night does come with a warning: “This is not a show for children. This production may contain adult language, nudity, offensive, racial, sexual content and dark, ugly, stark truths too awesome for children. If you bring your child, you are a terrible parent.” So noted.