Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JANUARY 23, 2009
A river of loneliness flows through three terrific productions on San Diego stages. Whether they’re in a high-end marriage, a religious order or a family-like theater company, the protagonists are driven by a profound sense of isolation – and a stubborn certainty — to make a damaging decision.
In “Doubt,” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the central character is a hidebound nun, so sure of her rightness and her rooting in the rigid teaching approaches of the past, she’s hellbent on bringing down a friendly, forward-looking priest, accusing him, on scant evidence, of improprieties with a young male student. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play by John Patrick Shanley concerns not only pedophilia in the church, and the old ways surrendering to the new of Vatican II, it’s also a parable of our over-eager entrance into war in Iraq . Significantly, at the end of the play, the zealous nun, brilliantly portrayed by Rosina Reynolds is, like much of the audience, left alone with her doubt.
The elderly actor in “The Dresser” thinks the Shakespeare show must go on, despite his age, infirmity and sheer exhaustion. He pushes himself into one more performance as King Lear, and suffers for it, mightily and alone, leaving in the lurch the Dresser who devoted his entire life to this arrogant, self-aggrandizing and destructive man. At North Coast Repertory Theatre, Jonathan McMurtry gives a tour de force performance in an intense and amusing production of the 1980 Ron Harwood drama, based on personal experience.
Also loosely based in fact, “Six Degrees of Separation” features a charming young confidence man, hungry for connection, who insinuates himself into the lives of wealthy couples who are themselves seeking something more in their privileged but empty existence. The award-winning 1990 John Guare play confronts our obsession with celebrity; the con artist insists that he’s the son of Sidney Poitier. But mostly, it’s about our mutual involvement and detachment. At the Old Globe, under the aegis of New York director Trip Cullman, the ensemble is outstanding, the humor quotient is high and the ache is palpable.
In each of these potent dramas, the seminal action backfires badly, and the central character winds up more isolated than ever. These plays force you to put yourself in the character’s place, and consider what you would do, how you would act in a similar circumstance. That’s the beauty of theater, when it’s done well ; it catapults you into another world and forces you to think. And all of these works are very well done indeed – excellently directed, superbly acted, beautifully designed.
We’ve had plenty of drama this week on the political stage… How about some compelling drama on a local stage?
“Doubt” plays through February 8, at the San Diego Repertory Theatre Downtown.
“The Dresser” also runs through February 8, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
“Six Degrees Of Separation” continues through February 15, at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park .
©2009 PAT LAUNER