by Shirley Lorraine
Serendipity of Randomness Onstage at SPTC
Santa Paula Theatre Center thrives on making their audiences think. The current production of “This Random World” by Steven Dietz offers a fine challenge for the mind. Dietz’ newest work follows SPTC’s success of last season’s “Becky’s New Car” with deeper areas to ponder.
Is everything in the world truly random, or does the serendipity of the concept of six degrees of separation provide opportunities for connection that are easily overlooked or simply missed? How much completeness of life are we missing by not fully exploring where we are and who we are with?
Director Taylor Kasch has assembled a fine team of actors to present glimpses into lives that could have intertwined had circumstances expanded in the moment. The playwright takes the audience on a journey of discovery with minimalistic style. The people are the focus in this piece, not the surroundings. Scenes are delineated with projections identifying which two characters we will meet next.
Cynthia Killion and David Parmenter highlight their differences as Beth and Tim Ward, siblings with opposite views of life. While Tim spends most of his time on his laptop computer, Beth writes her own obituary and plans her funeral service. They are both concerned about their mother, Scottie (Susan Muhrer) whom they feel is not getting much out of life. However, in reality, Scottie enjoys a travel-filled existence of which the siblings are not aware.
Scottie’s attendant/companion is Bernadette (Sierra Hall), who gamely goes along for the ride most of the time. She offers her sister Rhonda (Shelby Sandefur), a receptionist in a funeral home, the opportunity to accompany Scottie on one last trip. Rhonda seems more in tune with Scottie’s views and bonds with her as they complete a ritual of great meaning to Scottie.
Aileen-Marie Scott plays Tim’s ex-girlfriend, Claire, who has obsessions which are driving her current boyfriend, Gary (Scott Blanchard) away. While Claire is clearly a little unhinged, she and Tim (and Gary) still have emotional connections.
All the actors plunge into their characterizations with depth. They deliver humor, pathos and sentimentality while taking the audience on a delightful journey of mental discovery. Ventura County is so blessed with talent, it is a pleasure to see them work their craft.
A particularly excellent addition to the piece is original compositions by a local musician who is uncredited in the program. The background music is apropos to the mood of each scene. I found it to be soothing, calming and thoroughly enjoyable.
I was fascinated by the author’s theme of the circles we all travel in and how they can intersect in myriad unforeseen ways. It reminded me a great deal of Gertrude Stein’s In Circles which explores the same theme with different viewpoints. Ah, the true mysteries of life. The What if…? continues to confound.
The play runs about 90 minutes without an intermission which is just right. More would be easily mentally overwhelming, less would leave many questions. This Random World is an evening well spent.
Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sundays 2:30 PM through March 11
Adults $24, Students and Seniors $22