Wednesday, March 7, 2018

NCR’s “This Random World” or 'The Road Not Taken'

At the very end of Steven Dietz’s “This Random World”, now in a San Diego premiere at The North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach through March 18th, Scottie Ward (Anne Gee Byrd) asks, “What else have I missed?”

She was referring to the last sunrise of her life that she never got to see. It was her routine to watch the sun rise every morning. 

Scottie is dead and no one but the audience can see her when she comes back for a thought provoking moment.  Most everyone connected to her in one way or another is at her funeral.
L To R. Yolanda Franklin, Lisel Gorrell-Getz, Ava Hill, Kevin Hafso Koppmanand Anne Gee Byrd
Unbeknownst to each, most knew Scottie or took care of her and or traveled with her or are on the outside of her orbit and that includes her two grown children, Tim and Beth (Kevin Hafso Koppman and Lisel Gorell-Getz). Funny thing, we don’t see that much of the lady on the other side of this revolving door.

It sounds more complicated than it is frustrating watching all the missed opportunities in each character’s lives who, but for an instant, a word or timing could have changed the outcome of their lives, ergo ‘the road not taken’ as so eloquently penned by Robert Frost.  

With some fine direction from artistic director David Ellinstein’s well choreographed production, Dietz’ tale weaves in and out of the lives of those who knew Scottie.  The stories are told in a series of short vignettes that brings each one of the characters so close to one another as to revealing who they are is almost imminent but alas, no cigar. It even defies John Guare’s “Six Degrees Of Separation”.
Kevin Hafso Koppman with Diana Irvine
I imagine we all have them, missed opportunities. Some we realize immediately they are so obvious after the fact, and some we might ponder over all the ‘what if’s’ leaving us asking the same question, “What else have I missed”? And some not worthy of the energy trying.

I used to have a geometry teacher whose motto was “I could kick myself”. But wondering about lost opportunities can put you in the mad house, so just take the ride with Tim, Beth, Bernadette, Scottie’s companion (Yolanda Franklin) Rhonda (Ava Hill), Bernadette’s sister, Claire (Dianna Irvine) Tim’s ex. and Gary (Patrick Zeller) Claire’s current squeeze.

Dietz is a bit sly about how the lives of his characters crisscross and bypass each other on their way to never meeting or just this side of standing so close that one might assume the truth would out.
Lisel Gorell-Getz and Patrick Zeller
Take for example when Beth and Rhonda meet coincidentally in Japan (the devil is in the details that you will learn when you see the show).  Scottie’s one request to Rhonda while she was in Kyoto was to fill a mug (that Beth found looked familiar but never inquired about), with a certain sized pebble or stone inside, drop it in the cup and fill it half way with rain water and say her full name ‘Elizabeth McHenry Ward’.

Other instructions followed. But for the fact that Rhonda called out her own mother’s name first as Beth wandered off, prevented Beth and Rhonda from making the connection. Little stuff like that that changes the course of one’s direction or otherwise meeting.

We get a glimpse into the quirky personalities of both Tim and Beth when we first are introduced to them. Controlling Beth is reading over her obituary to Tim and Tim is putting up resistance to following her directions since she is quite alive and well.

The conversation veers off to how each perceives their mother and how both, in their own way, try to protect her and save her needless worrying. To achieve that end, Tim rarely talks to his mother and Beth never reveals to her mother about her love of travel for fear she will worry too much. Unbeknownst to each, Scottie never tells them of her adventures outside her living residence.
Yolanda Franklin and Anne Gee Byrd
And so it goes from one missed opportunity to another, and that includes the breakups of Tim and Clair and Clair and Gary and, the renewed friendship of both only to fall apart, again by talking in circles rather than getting to the point. It’ all so frustrating.

Fine acting overall saved this production for yours truly. Lisel Gorell-Getz always proves her acting prowess as the strong and confident woman that she is. As Beth she succeeds at bringing that home.

Kevin Hafso Koppman, recent MFA recipient from USD/Old Globe Shiley Graduate Theatre Program, is perfect as the lone wolf who can’t seem to get his stuff together even going so far as to change his own obituary that will eventually turn Claire off and end, for a second time, a chance for them to reconnect. And Patrick Zeller’s Gary loses out in the end to both Claire and Beth on opposite ends of the Richter scale.    

At the center is Anne Gee Byrd’s Scottie. Her decisions to set her children free while holding back on herself was a noble cause, at least in her mind, but look what she created. OY! The day I attended Byrd could barely be heard beyond the third row and that was unfortunate since she held all the clues to her children’s idiosyncrasies in each of her narratives. 

Franklin and Hill add a bit of humor and TLC and Joe Paulson makes an unusual entrance at the Funeral Home wanting his obituary changed back to its original dates after being tampered with by Tim in a dumb attempt at changing his history that eventually changed his history.
Lisel Gorell-Getz and Kevin Hafso Koppman
Marty Burnett’s colorful set (no credits for projections) along with Melanie Chen Cole’s sound design and Matthew Novotny’s subtle lighting and Elisa Benzoni’s costumes all add to the fine look of Dietz’s Random World.

‘Random’ is an interesting thesis and for those who believe in b’shert (it was meant to be), it might satisfy. For those looking for something deeper, then say what you mean and mean what you say and don’t shy away from strangers. You never can tell, the person sitting across from you in a restaurant might be your long lost brother or sister, aunt or uncle or long ago best friend.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through March 18th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 888-776-6278
Production Type: Drama
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr. St. D Solana Beach, CA92075
Ticket Prices: Start at $49.00
Photo: Aaron Rumley


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