Part of the fun of a San Francisco Mime Troupe show is the sense of audience camaraderie. 

So it was on the Fourth of July, when the venerable Troupe premiered its latest satirical political comedy with music in San Francisco’s Dolores Park. (The company opens a new play there every Independence Day before touring to other parks in the Bay Area and beyond.)  

Toward the end of “Breakdown”—which, among other things, challenges the nationwide perception of San Francisco as a “hellhole”—a passerby, traipsing through the Tenderloin, remarks, “I cannot wait until they tear the rest of this down and make it into something a little more like, I don’t know. … Walnut Creek?” prompting the whole audience to hiss in unison. 

Yes, the Mime Troupe preaches to the choir, but it also urges its loyal audience toward activism—in the most entertaining way possible. 

In “Breakdown,” written by Michael Gene Sullivan and Marie Cartier, and directed by Sullivan, ace Fox reporter Marcia Stone (a fierce Jamella Cross) arrives in the Tenderloin, mic in hand, in full, ferocious exposé mode, determined to reveal to all the world the “reds, gays and homeless” that comprise the filthy streets of San Francisco—and secure her position as a rising star. 

Not that Marcia, who is Black, is an airhead. “Any fool can see which way this country’s going,” she sings. “You’ve got to go right if you want to get rich/when you look like me in the land of the free!” 

In the Tenderloin (charming set design by Carlos Aceves), she encounters an unhoused and half-crazed woman, Yume (Kina Kanter), desperately panhandling, and her two friends: a hyperactive, entrepreneurial-minded street person, Felix (Jed Parsario) and a philosophical Greek storeowner (Andre Amarotico) who doesn’t mind if Yume sets up her tent in his entryway. 

A good-natured social worker (Alicia M.P. Nelson) struggles, within a constrictive health and social welfare system, to help vulnerable Yume in particular. 

A woman who’s lost her Noe Valley home (Nelson again) wanders through with her suitcase, seeking a single-room occupancy hotel. 

Throughout, the performers sing (music and lyrics by Daniel Savio) accompanied by a three-musician offstage band that also provides sound effects and a voiceover here and there. A few dance sequences (choreography by AeJay Mitchell) are part of the mix, too. 

Lots of hot-button issues are tossed into the Mime Troupe’s roiling pot: the threat to voting rights nationwide, corporate greed, governmental failures, racism and more.  

The San Francisco Mime Troupe’s production of “Breakdown” features (standing, L-R) Andre Amarotico, Jed Parsario, and (sitting, L-R) Kina Kantor, Michael Sullivan and Alicia M. P. Nelson. (Courtesy David Allen Studio) 

Yume’s plaintive “Look Me in the Eye” (“You see me!/ I see you see me!/ But you walk on by,” she sings) is particularly, painfully powerful. 

But there’s also plenty to laugh at along the way. (In one throwaway line, we learn that Marcia has editorialized on the “dark side of civil rights”!)  

And the scenes between Marcia and her lecherous racist boss (Parsario) are particularly funny. 

This is a fairy tale in part. Is there a single corner of the Tenderloin where three such colorful characters as Yume, Felix and a kindly shop owner can hang out, with nary a drug dealer or addict in sight? The Mime Troupe, with its talented ensemble of players and designers, has a big bag of theatrical tricks to make its call to arms enticing to us, the choir. 

The San Francisco Mime Troupe’s “Breakdown” continues at 2 p.m. (except where noted) through Sept. 4. Admission is free; a $20 donation is suggested. Most regional performances are listed below. For the full schedule, visit  

July 8 (3 p.m.): St. James Park, San Jose  
July 9: Balboa Park, S.F. 
July 16: Mime Troupe Back Lawn, S.F.; RSVP required 
July 19-20 (7 p.m.): Lakeside Park, Lake Merritt, Oakland  
July 22-23: Live Oak Park, Berkeley  
July 27 (7 p.m.): Community Center lawn, Mill Valley
July 29: Yerba Buena Gardens, S.F.  
July 30: Glen Park, S.F. 
Aug. 5: Washington Square Park, S.F. 
Aug. 6: Mitchell Park Bowl, Palo Alto   
Aug. 12: La Plaza Park, Cotati  
Aug. 13: Precita Park, S.F.  
Aug. 18-20 (3 p.m.): London Nelson Community Center, Santa Cruz
Aug. 24 (7 p.m.): Z Space, S.F.
Aug. 26-27: Willard Park, Oakland   
Sept. 2: Peacock Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F. 
Sept. 3-4: Dolores Park, S.F.