by Shirley Lorraine
Rubicon digs deeply into family dynamics
The 2019-2020 theatrical season at the Rubicon Theatre in downtown Ventura promises “stories about taking responsibility, finding freedom, daring to hope, living in harmony – and charting a new and certain course in an uncertain world”. The season also features plays by female playwrights. It is off to an auspicious beginning.
The current production, Never, Not Once, by Carey Crim was awarded the Jane Chambers’ Playwriting Award in 2017. This is the second production by Crim mounted at the Rubicon. It is a complex emotional study with many humorous moments.
Eleanor, a young college student raised by two mothers, desires to learn more about her genetic background. She hires a private investigator to assist in finding her father, whom she has never known. This disturbing action raises anxieties for her birth mother, Allison, as she has kept information about him secret for 20 years.
As Eleanor’s search continues, the family is forced to confront painful hidden secrets. Doug, the true father, appears back on the scene and reveals his struggles through life. Now he is face to face with a daughter he didn’t know existed and must try and repair the past with her mother, who vehemently resists.
Her long-time partner, Nadine, is supportive and at the same time wants to see Allison come to grips with the truth and move forward. Old misunderstandings come up as the two express differing viewpoints on the subject at hand.
Eleanor is aided in her search by her boyfriend Rob who becomes another spoke in the wheel of the family’s dysfunction, trying his best to be helpful and supportive.
Each member of the cast is simply superb. Each character undergoes many layers of emotional discovery as the story unfolds. The play is recommended for mature audiences due to the adult subject matter and language. The play runs without an intermission, about 90 minutes.
Melanie Cruz portrays the central character of Allison. She is at once stoic, frightened, anxious and resolute as she navigates areas she had hoped never to open. Her partner, Nadine, played by Diahnna Nicole Baxter, provides a sensible counterpoint as the second mother figure to Eleanor.
Sydney Berk is the enthusiastic Eleanor. Isaac Cruz is Rob, her college friend who becomes her boyfriend as the search progresses. Both bring the eagerness and determination of youth to the family picture as well as a needed measure of acceptance.
The reluctant father, Doug, played by Michael Polak, works through a gamut of emotions as he struggles with not only the past between he and Allison, but also his own difficult past. He confronts his own denial and devils, and in the course of doing so, discovers what he needs to do moving forward.
The play explores the effects secrets can have in the long run, insecurities that run deep, the challenges reality can present, and how lives can be changed with truth. The many layers can be dizzying but satisfying as they resolve.
Never, Not Once runs through February 23. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (talkbacks follow the 7 p.m. show), Thursdays at 7 p.m. (Feb. 20 is College Mixer Night with special price and package for college students), Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range. Discounts for students, seniors, military and more are available. www.rubicontheatre.org or 805-667-2900.