This is the subject Gallegos raises with Yesterday Again: how the decisions we make affect our future, and were informed by our pastschoices we have made and actions we have taken that can no longer be undone. He tells his story through the relationship of Bella Kadie and the aforementioned Eric Baxter, at three stages of their lives: as 8th graders, college freshman, and mid-30s adults, as they deal with their sexual awakening and the specter of abuse.
It's a lot to bite off (requiring a cast of 14 to play Bella and Eric at three ages, plus assorted parents, teachers and friends), but Gallegos is nothing if not artistically ambitious. At 14 he co-wrote a play (Prop 8 Love Stories that played successfully to Bay Area audiences and went on to have a two-week run Off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop, which has staged many notable works, including the New York premiere of Once, as well as Peter and the Starcatcher, Fetch Clay, Make Man and Love and Information. Last year, at the Marsh in San Francisco, 18-year-old Gallegos performed God Fights the Plague, like Prop 8 Love Stories, a work of documentary theater in which Gallegos interviewed people and then performed them as characters, using their words verbatim.
Now Gallegos has taken another step on his journey and created his characters from scratch. Having done all those interviews for his two previous shows has given Gallegos an excellent ear for dialogue and speech cadences, and he does a marvelous job of keeping the characters consistent at different stages in their lives, while still indicating growth and change over the years.
Director Shari Lee Miller has done terrific work in staging Gallegos' story in the black box Studio Theater. The action flows smoothly across time, and we bear witness to the ageless drama of how people connect and disconnect with each other throughout their lives. She shows us the tragedy of parents distancing themselves from their childrenand how those children then reach out for sometimes inappropriate alternative connections.
The cast is mostly solid, with a couple of very good performances (Olivia Marie Rooney as Adolescent Bella and Maxx Zweers as Maggie) and one stellar turn from Craig A. Miller as the grown-up Eric. Every time he's on stage, you feel the weight of all Eric is going through at earlier stages in his life. His work with Marty Pistone, as Eric's father (who is suffering from dementia at this point) is poignant and lovelybut he's even better during his interactions with Jamie (Alyssa Jirrels), the precocious 15-year old he is tutoring in algebra.
Though this production has its rough edges (an uneven cast, thrift shop set design), the most glaring problem in my mind is one I can't discuss simply because to do so would be a spoiler of the highest order. All I will say is that it felt like a literary betrayal, and left a sour taste as I walked out into the cool evening air. Fortunately, not sour enough that I wouldn't recommend seeing Yesterday Again, if only to be able to say you were there at the beginning of what could be an amazing career for the young Petaluma native.
Yesterday Again runs through August 2, 2015, in The Studio at the 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 general, $20 for seniors and youth 13-21 and $10 for children 5-12. (This play, however, is unsuitable for children.) Tickets are available online at www.6thStreetPlayhouse.com, by calling the box office at (707) 523-4185 or during open Box Office hours.