Aired on KSDS-FM on 7/14/17
RUN DATES: 7/5/17 – 7/30/17
VENUE: La Jolla Playhouse
Angie hasn’t been back to her Virginia family home in some time. She’s long been estranged from her mother and brother. Now that Mom is gone, the mid-career poetry professor has come back – to sort out her life, which has taken a few unfortunate turns.
She’s surprised to find two 20-somethings hanging out on the front lawn. It’s a kind of refuge, or safe space, for them.
During the course of 85 compelling minutes, Rachel Bonds’ world premiere, “At the Old Place,” fleshes out these three lost souls, all struggling to make a place for themselves, and possibly reconnect with “the road not taken.”
The slowly unfolding play is Chekhovian in its slice-of-life realism, and like life, not every loose thread is neatly tied up at the end. But the characters and their plights are intriguing, and we’re gripped by their stories.
At the La Jolla Playhouse, under the taut direction of associate artistic director Jaime Castañeda, the performances are outstanding, and thoroughly credible. The bookended coming-and-going feels a little forced, as does some of the dialogue for the fourth character, the less well-developed college teaching colleague.
Heidi Armbruster perfectly captures Angie’s conflicted feelings and deep-seated angst, and Brenna Coates is terrific as the foul-mouthed, angry Jolene, a little trashy and always spoiling for a fight. Marcel Spears, as the gay, black former foster kid, Will, brings a sweetly sorrowful tone to the drama. Benim Foster is less bedraggled and less persuasive than we’d expect, as the hapless professor who’s just waiting for Angie to decide what she wants. If only she knew.
The beautifully detailed house exterior is the centerpiece of the lovely set, which is nicely lit. The sound is crisp and the costumes are apt.
Everyone here is adrift, searching for an anchor and a sense of belonging. They periodically reach out to each other, and find temporary solace – in booze, or poetry – but ultimately, like all of us, they each have to find and define family, home and direction for themselves.
©2017 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews