The Idea Man

California Stage

2509 R St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 451-5822

Rated 4.0

California Stage’s new production is a perfect pairing of protagonists, both as written and as performed. The Idea Man pits the idea profiteers of the 1 percent against the idea generators of the 99 percent through the contentious relationship between a brilliant toolmaker downstairs and the suits upstairs in the same factory.

Al (Loren Taylor) is the crude, blunt-talking machinist who drops his unrefined but game-changing idea in the company suggestion box and is rewarded with an employee-of-the-month plaque and a check for $100.

Frank (Eric Baldwin) is the head engineer who instantly recognizes the idea as one that not only will revolutionize his industry but will also rake in millions for his company. His boss (Charlie Holliday) orders Frank to refine the concept without letting Al know how much his idea is really worth. But Frank has a couple of problems—first he needs a little bit more info from Al, and second, he has just a tinge of guilt knowing he is unfairly stealing a once-in-a-lifetime design.

Not only have the two main characters met their matches—the actors have as well. It’s a pleasure to watch the jousting and parrying between Taylor and Baldwin as they try to outwit and outplay each other, convincingly conveying their characters through language, glances and gestures.

Playwright Kevin King brings his engineering and tool-making background to his thoughtful and wickedly funny award-winning play. Director Penny Kline nicely pulls everything together, including the supporting cast, though needs to tighten up the scene changes, which causes the pacing to falter at times.

The Idea Man, which won a writing award for King and premiered in Los Angeles in 2009, but won’t open in New York until next month—which means California Stage has given Sacramento audiences a very well-done production of a cutting-edge new play before the theatrical establishment has a chance to see it.

The Idea Man: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$20. California Stage, 2509 R Street; (916) 451-5822; Through March 17.