Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: OCTOBER 22, 2009
Surviving a difficult past and moving on. It’s a strong thematic element in just about every play that opened in San Diego this past week – from the wildly imaginative mega-spectacle, “The Lion King,” where young Simba , guilt-ridden about his father’s death, runs away from his pride; to Lamb’s Players Theatre’s fascinating historical drama, “A Joyful Noise,” where a woman’s misdeeds are tangled up in the creation of Handel’s “Messiah;” to the brilliant “Dog Act” at Moxie Theatre, set in a post-apocalyptic world where one man’s youthful error promotes a species self-demotion.
But in two particular plays, two intense, thought-provoking productions, moving on from the pain of the past is the very crux of the action.
One is aptly called “Frozen,” because that’s the emotional state of the three characters who are stuck in an uncompromising mindset. One is the devastated mother of a 10 year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and killed. Another is the perpetrator of that crime. And the third is the forensic psychiatrist who tries to come between them.
This dark, scorching drama by British playwright Bryony Lavery concerns remorse and absolution – and the difference between symptom and sin, between crimes prompted by disease or evil. What or who is worthy of forgiveness?
ion theatre’s production is stark and searing, making excellent use of the cavernous, Sushi space downtown. The performances are strong, mostly understated. This play is all about unexceptional people trapped in their own cognitive rut. The didactic psychiatrist, who’s done her own dirty deed, is underwritten. The mother is unhealed, even after 20 years. And the pedophile, in a harrowing performance by Matt Scott – is a man without a conscience.
Up at North Coast Repertory Theatre, it’s all about conscience, all balled-up in guilt, shame and self-reproach. “Talley’s Folly,” a Pulitzer Prize-winner by Lanford Wilson, is a drama with comic overtones. Sally and Matt have lived their lives alone, isolated, licking their wounds, unable to move forward or move on. On the outside, they couldn’t be more different. She’s a WASPy nurse’s aide from redneck Missouri ; he’s an Eastern European Jewish immigrant, a sad and funny accountant; they’re both adrift as the second World War rages on. Each has known extreme heartache, allowing a dark blot in their past to cut them off from life. On this evening, in an old boathouse, under the moonlight, they discover their commonalities, their souls and their long-buried capacity for love.
In a beautifully nuanced production, David Ellenstein , who directed and co-stars, brings both humor and heart to this warm, touching, life-affirming play. His relentless pursuit of Amy Biedel ’s wounded and brittle Sally, finally causes her — and us — to melt.
So, if you have a past of your own – and a few secrets or regrets – you’ve got plenty of company. You can find relief and release — at the theater.
“Frozen ” runs through October 31 at Sushi Performance and Visual Art, in downtown San Diego .
“Talley’s Folly” continues through November 8, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
©2009 PAT LAUNER