Lemony hegemony spreads to S.F. stage

Could Mr. Snicket be the next hot ticket? If the venerable Bay Area theater institution Word for Word has its way, the answer is “yes.”

Daniel Handler, the Jewish author of the popular “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” books, is also a serious author of adult novels. His latest, “Adverbs,” will get a sneak preview with the Word for Word production of “4 Adverbs,” which excerpts four stories from the novel.

“4 Adverbs” premieres Feb. 24 at the Project Artaud Theater in S.F.

It’s fitting that Word for Word gets first crack at Handler’s novel. He is a lifelong San Franciscan and “Adverbs” is largely set in the city.

“I’ve been working on it for a long time intermittently between Snicket books,” says Handler, “so its structure is sort of cubist. It’s midway between a series of stories and a straight ahead novel.”

While his first three Snicket books were turned into a hit 2004 film, this is the first serious attempt to theatricalize Handler’s work. The author is glad it’s in the hands of Word for Word, which transforms fiction into works for the stage, verbatim.

“I saw some [Word for Word] shows I really liked,” he says. “They contacted me and asked if I had anything appropriate. I said I had a new novel and they said, ‘Why don’t we do it before it comes out?'”

“4 Adverbs” is about love in its various permutations. The stories are titled “Arguably,” “Particularly,” “Naturally” and “Wrongly,” and feature mismatched lovers and lost souls. Far from being a pesky presence in rehearsals, Handler has not met the cast and doesn’t have a clue yet how the company will interpret his novel.

“I’m not interested in directing the troops,” says Handler. “The good news with Word for Word is they take every word of your work, so it’s going to be incredibly faithful to the original text. The bad news is you can’t blame them for the slow moments.”

Though Handler himself is Jewish, and the upcoming novel has some Jewish characters, the Word for Word adaptation did not include them.

Meanwhile, Handler continues to enjoy worldwide success with his Snicket books. But on the subject of a film sequel, Handler isn’t so sure.

“The movie did all right,” he says. “If you or I had made that kind of money we’d be either deliriously happy or on the run from the law. But I don’t think there’s another one on the horizon.”

“4 Adverbs” plays at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 22-March 12, at the Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida Street, S.F. Tickets: $25-$32. Information: (415) 437-6775.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.