San Diego Theater Review: THIS RANDOM WORLD (North Coast Rep)

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by Milo Shapiro on March 14, 2018

in Theater-Regional


Facebook and LinkedIn have illuminated the error in the supposed six degrees of separation theory, which asserts that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other; in our interconnected world, the correct number is probably closer to three. In This Random World, the audience is made excruciatingly aware that we’re often down to two and, at times, only one because we don’t know what we have in common with random people we encounter. And what a shame that is when sometimes just knowing who is before us could open up room for love, healing, and kindred souls.

Playwright Stephen Dietz introduces us to seven characters, all hurting over something. In the first “family,” Beth (Lisel Gorell-Getz) craves acceptance, both from her mother and in her own self-judgment. Her brother Ben (Kevin Hafso Koppman) lives in limbo, still aching over a long-lost romance with Claire (Diana Irvine). (A side story has emotional basket-case Claire’s current boyfriend Gary (Patrick Zeller) wanting out, hoping to come across as a good guy in the process of leaving.)

Beth and Ben’s mother Scottie (Anne Gee Byrd) wants adventure but refuses to allow her children to worry about her, even at the risk of alienating them by protecting them. Scottie’s nurse Bernadette (Yolanda Franklin) leads the second family, as she longs to heal the relationship with her envious sister Rhonda (Ava Hill). When Ben plays what appears to be a truly minor practical joke, the ramifications snowball, leading to unexpected confessions, personal awakenings, and – for us – some laughs. Director David Ellenstein draws out the humor lovingly, but never loses sight of the fact that this is a poignant drama underneath.

In a show where no one character is more central than another, a strong ensemble is essential. NCRT has found it in this group. Every role is richly written and each actor seems to savor his delivery of it. We are on edge, praying that the coincidental overlapping of characters, who could help each other if they only knew, will cause someone to say something the other needs to hear – teasing us with the “myth of serendipity.” Particularly sharp are the insights of Scottie (craftily delivered by Ms. Byrd) such as “If I had to do it again, I’d have doubted more … doubt is the unmarked door.”

Designers Marty Burnett and Matthew Novotny do a wonderful job of bringing an almost bare stage to life through projected images, setting far more elaborate backgrounds than mere staging could. This allows for numerous effortless and instantaneous changes in location throughout this sharp and sentimental look at life, death, and all that stuff in between.

photos by Aaron Rumley

This Random World
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed at 7; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on March 18, 2018
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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