KPBS AIRDATE: August 22, 2003
Facing down your demons and confronting your past. Two amusing and intelligent dramas examine the paths not taken and the selves left behind.
On the small scale, there’s Joe Pintauro’s “Beside Herself” at 6th@Penn Theatre, and on a much larger canvas, North Coast Repertory Theatre presents Donald Margulies’ thought-provoking “Sight Unseen.” This is the third time Margulies’ deep and delicious play has been done in San Diego; the first, ten years ago, just after the play premiered, starred David Ellenstein, who recently took over as North Coast Rep’s artistic director. Now, once again, he becomes internationally acclaimed artist Jonathan Waxman, who visits Patricia, his college lover and muse, to find part of what he’s left behind. Not only has he lost his parents, and his first love, but he’s lost his way. He fears he can’t retrieve his early passion, perhaps even his talent, as he’s sucked into the politics and power of the high-stakes art world. As the play ricochets back and forth in time, we see who Jonathan and Patricia used to be, when they were true to themselves and their passions. We’re shown the devolution of their relationship, the amorality of the art arena, the price of fame, the paranoia of Jewish identity, the cost of an unresolved father-son connection and the value of values. The play is powerful, and the production is muscular, though it’s lacking nuance and edge. The performances are superb, under the direction of the much-missed Ralph Elias. Ellenstein captures the humor, arrogance and anguish of Jonathan, and DeAnna Driscoll is marvelous as Patricia, both in her older and younger incarnations. Tim West does wonderful work as Nick, Patty’s taciturn, oddball English husband, but he’s a bit too bitter, so we don’t give credence to his trenchant insights about modern art. Jennifer Eve Kraus continues her theatrical winning streak as the provocative German journalist who baits Brooklyn-born Jonathan in a subtly anti-Semitic interview. Plan an extended evening for this Top Choice; you’ll be talking about it long after it’s over.
The cleverly titled “Beside Herself” may also make you look within. As a widowed older woman cleans out her cabin set in an isolated, island-bound bog, she’s visited by her former self, at three earlier times, and she’s forced to justify the choices she’s made and the risks not taken. Fascinating way to view an inner monologue and watch someone’s life literally pass before her eyes. Solidly directed by Bernard Baldan, the cast features vigorous performances by Jeannette Horn as the older Mary, and Laurie Lehmann-Gray, Shannon Diana and Catie Marron as her former selves, with excellent support from Robert Borzych as the neurotic young UPS man who offers Mary another chance.
Give your own life a second glance and catch these two shows if you can.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.