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Regional Reviews: San Diego

The Blameless
The Old Globe
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Also see David's review of The Illusion


Antoinette LaVecchia and Frank Pando
Photo by Jim Cox
The death of a child is the worst kind of loss, many people think. In particular, a child who dies through the actions of others is doubly mourned by the family. Playwright Nick Gandiello imagines such a scenario in The Blameless, now receiving its world premiere through March 26 at the Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

A beloved child has died, at the hand of a fellow student who went on a campus shooting spree. The father of the shooter has asked to meet with the victims' families, and the Garcia family has been the only one to assent to the visit. The purpose of the meeting is understanding and, perhaps, catharsis. Neither is fully achieved in this ultimately unsatisfying play.

The Garcia family seems fairly normal when the lights come up on their home (well designed by Andrew Boyce). Mother (Antoinette LaVecchia), father (Frank Pando), daughter (Nataysha Rey), and aunt (Liza Colón-Zayas) lead mostly ordinary lives with many of the usual tensions, lives in which Mr. Gandiello and director Gaye Taylor Upchurch are happy to find humorous bickering. But everyone is somewhat on edge. Mom and daughter fight, dad is impatient and doesn't know quite how to dress after showering at the end of his work day. Auntie meddles, to mom's dismay. Daughter schemes to have her boyfriend (Amara James Aja) with her during the planned meeting.

They are awaiting the arrival of the man (Stephen Barker Turner) whose son killed their son Jesse. There are signs of mourning going on, most obviously in the form of a large poster photo of the family with Jesse prominently featured. And, even though the Garcias have said yes to this visit, it is not a mere curiosity. Each family member has a score to settle, at least to a degree. The loss is still fresh. Paparazzi lurk outside flashing cameras every time someone comes or goes (the flashing nearly ruins an otherwise fine lighting design by Bradley King). Even though no one has publicly announced this visit, the Garcia home is being staked out in any case.

The visit is not likely to go well, and the fact that some honest words are exchanged makes it go better than expected. But the air goes out of the play once the visitor arrives. He's stiff, not really knowing why he's there, and Mr. Turner's opening night performance reflected that stiffness and uncertainty to such an extent that it threw off nuanced acting that was present before his arrival. It's possible that someone had an off night, but the performances went limp until the visitor left.

Did the visit help? Some, I guess. The final scene shows the family bonding over a familiar ritual—a trip to the seashore. Grieving is funny that way. Familiar things help. Reassuring each other that you'll be all right helps.

And what of the visitor? Did the time with the family help him? Maybe, maybe not—one can't really tell. There are many loose ends that aren't tied up and some (like the paparazzi) that probably weren't necessary in the first place. Maybe the loose ends aren't meant to be tied up. But, in its current form, there's not a lot of drama to this play—and not nearly enough humor.

Performs through March 26, 2017, nightly except Mondays, with matinee performance on Saturdays and Sundays at The Old Globe's Balboa Park campus, at 1363 Old Globe Way. Tickets are available by calling (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623] or by visiting www.theoldglobe.org.

Other creative team members for this production are David Israel Reynoso (Costume Design) and Ryan Rumery (Original Music and Sound Design).


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