BWW Review: THIS RANDOM WORLD at Left Edge Theatre
Dubbed "the most ubiquitous contemporary American playwright whose name you may never have heard" by the Chicago Tribune, Steven Dietz's oeuvre contains nearly forty plays that are frequently produced across the country. With one of his most recent plays, This Random World, Dietz weaves coincidentally-related characters through serendipitous encounters across the globe in this charming, if modest, production by Left Edge Theatre.
That Dietz remains an unknown quantity to most of us is a pity. There's a wry humor and aversion to cliché that keeps us engaged as his play examines our mortality from varying perspectives. Here he explores the meaning of life with a deftness that grounds this series of dialogues in reality despite the often unlikely brushes of fate. However, we rarely delve deep beyond the surface; one wishes Dietz pushed his characters just a inch or two further as they confront their own world views. His finale owes a debt to Our Town--umbrellas included--yet pulls back from either reaching Wilder's cynical conclusion or embracing a more triumphant message.
As Beth Ward, Heather Gordon finds the right balance of humor and poignancy as she faces a premature mid-life crisis. Her exchange with Gary (Ariel Zuckerman) is particularly funny and moving, as they find themselves stranded in the mountains of Nepal. The brevity of most scenes can lead the cast into caricature, but Paige Picard (as Claire) and Zuckerman capture the full range of emotions in their imperfect break-up at a taco joint, and as sisters coping with their mother's recent death, Rosie Frater (as Bernadette) and Chandler Parrott-Thomas (as Rhonda) encapsulate two very different reactions to grief. As an aging matriarch, Scottie Ward, Trish DeBaun gracefully makes the most of her sunset years by witnessing every sunrise with a devilish wit.
Argo Thompson's projections and set design vividly move us from place to place, and Joe Winkler's soothing sound design adds a meditative quality to the proceedings. Phoebe Moyer directs with an eye for mixing comedy with tragedy, but the clunky scene changes slow the play's momentum. The lighting by April George and costumes by Sandra Ish ably navigate us from a hospital waiting room to a shrine in Kyoto.
Left Edge Theatre may well be a Bay Area company "whose name you never have heard." With its well-proportioned studio space on the campus of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa and an intriguing list of contemporary playwrights (including Stephen Adly Guirgis and Simon Stephens) programmed for next season, that should probably change.
This Random World continues through May 26th, 2019 at Left Edge Theatre, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA. Tickets are available now at the Luther Burbank Center Box Office at 707.546.3600 or online at https://www.leftedgetheatre.com/.
Photos by Katie Kelley.