Playwright Miranda Rose Hall’s brand new play, “The Hour Of Great Mercy” is making its world Premiere at Diversionary Theatre on Park Boulevard through March 3rd where it has found a safe haven in that community’s house.
Far from the crashing waves and almost expected non-stop sunshine of San Diego, Ms. Hall’s play takes place in the hinterlands of a fictional Alaskan town (her words) of Bethlehem, population 25,000 give or take. Most residents see very little daylight and when the population does grow, it’s not by leaps and bounds, it’s more like one birth maybe a year if that. The same can be said about the loss of a long term resident.
|Andrew Oswald, Patrick Mayuyu, Eileen Rivera, Tom Stephenson and Dana Case with the Aurola Borelalis in background
What is also significant about this particular location, whether real to the playwright or not, the irony does not go unnoticed. What happens in this remote snowy desert of Alaska where redemption, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, death, compassion and the priesthood, Jesuit that is, is that every decision made is based on some ingredient baked into the sum total of at least one tenant of Catholicism.
If you’ve ever been to the Holy Land, Bethlehem might be on your list of places to visit since…well, I’m the last person to educate anyone about Bethlehem, except to say that I have been there. And, I might add, I did learn that the “Hour Of Great Mercy” refers to the time that Jesus died”.
But far from cultural and religious atmosphere, of Baltimore, MD, Alaska was where the playwright relocated, after college, to ‘perform service with a Jesuit volunteer corps’ …for people receiving long term and –end- of- life care.
|Andrew Oswald and Dana Case
This is where we first meet Maggie (a convincing and compelling Dana Chase) lecturing to a class on Gun Safety. She is interrupted when her brother-in-law Ed comes into the room and all bets are off for the class to continue. In reality, Maggie invited Ed to come home.
|Dana Case as Maggie
His alcoholic brother Roger (Tom Stephenson gives a two thumbs up bravo performance), is the reason for Ed’s return home as well for some reconciliation and forgiveness.
A tragedy of enormous proportions happened to this small family and both brothers found terms to deal in very different ways. Ed left. Roger took to drinking. Ed is also dying of ALS/ Lou Gerig's Disease. More importantly, he is planning on taking his own life. Roger wants nothing to do with his brother and refuses to see or speak with him; doesn’t even seem moved when the news of Ed’s condition and contemplations are revealed.
Most of Roger’s time is spent in his makeshift radio hut heavy with family trinkets (Kristen Flores) where he talks of local news to those interested. It is his get-a-way and a platform to escape from dealing with his pain and loss of feelings except for the bitterness and loath he harbors in his being, and that includes his relationship with his soon to be ex -wife, Maggie.
One of Roger’s detractor’s is the elderly Irma (Eileen Rivera), who also has history of loss in her small family. Irma immigrated fro the Philippines with her husband years ago and is a regular pain in Roger’s arse. She provides much comic relief to some rather heavy -handed topics and shows up just at the right time adding much needed levity to some very deep and emotional topics.
Playing an important role in Ed’s life is a young man, Joseph (a beautifully intelligent and emotional Patrick Mayuyu) who meets Ed at the waters edge as he about to go through with his threat.
|Patrick Mayuyu and Andrew Oswald
Joseph, a nurse, has just gotten the shaft from his former lover and is ripe for a fast romp but his compassion for Ed is so deep that it becomes almost a religion in and of itself. Together they and a very feisty Irma, form a family bond where they look over and take care of each other.
Staged beautifully by veteran actor, Rosina Reynolds (“Twilight Of The Golds”, “Broken Glass” and “Golda’s Balcony”) now in the director’s chair, the action takes place in short, economical scenes that in their totality bring the characters full circle to where each has the blessing of another in this compelling and compassionate, somewhat poetic family drama.
Each frame weaves the complexities and raw emotions that brings to life, in the baron wilderness of the Northern Lights, a family adrift yet held together by commonality and a deeply felt religious conviction.
Ms. Reynolds and her talented cast along with the technical support from the staff at Diversionary include costumes by Elisa Benzoni, sound by Emily Jankowsky and lighting by Curtis Miller is laced with some well- meaning humor, that puts to rest that religion can’t have its light side by -side moments of understanding and forgiveness.
Ms. Hall and Diversionary are to be congratulated in this world –class collaboration. The playwright is also under commission from LCT3/ Lincoln Center, Yale Rep., and Trinity Rep. and is currently Resident Playwright and ensemble member with LubDub Theatre in New York. If you want something done ask a busy person.
Thanks to Artistic Director of Diversionary Matt Morrow, because of his foresight our community is richer for this experience.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through March 3rd.
Organization: Diversionary Theatre
Production Type: Drama
Where: 4545 Park Blvd. #101, San Diego, CA 92116
Ticket Prices: $15.00-$50.00