Site-specific theatre is hot. Getting out of conventional theatrical surroundings and doing scenes in real locales before a small group of people not only feels adventurous but brings audience members (and sometimes, passersby) into the action in a way that conventional performances can’t. The likes of La Jolla Playhouse have been trying site-specific presentations as part of its WithOutWalls series. Audiences have been intrigued with The Car Plays (due to return next October) and Susurrus, and the intrigue is great enough to produce that all-important “buzz” for the company.
Now, Circle Circle dot dot, a newish theatre collective that presents company-created material, has decided to try something site-specific as well. The result is San Diego. I Love You, which is being presented to the public this weekend and next. It’s a pleasant hour-long afternoon stroll through the varieties of young love in Hillcrest.
Starting at the Jake’s on Sixth, the tour comprises a total of five scenes, each one being played at a different venue. The main characters carry the gender-neutral names “Alex” and “Chris,” and each scene is played by different actors.
Scene 1 is performed at Jake’s and features co-playwright Katherine Harroff as Alex and Brian Burke as Chris. In this scene, Chris tells Alex that he is considering a job that would move him to Chicago, and the two discuss their friendship and the difficulty of finding romance in San Diego. The talk gets flirtatious as the two continue to consume beers, and by the end of the scene you’re pretty sure what’s going to happen when the two go off together.
Scene 2, located at Bluestocking Books on Fifth Avenue, finds two women named Alex (Kathryn Byrd) and Chris (Whitney Shay) who are experiencing tension. They have been friends, then they had sex, and now, predictably, the dynamic of the relationship has changed.
Scene 3, performed at The Brass Rail bar, portrays Chris (Shaun Tuazon) meeting Pat (Evan Kendig) after having chatted with him on an online dating site. Pat turns out to be something of a mismatch, but the potential hook-up is disrupted by the arrival of Alex (Justin Warren Martin), Chris’ ex.
Scene 4, the most lengthy, takes place at a sidewalk table at Pappalecco restaurant. Here, Alex (Delia Knight) meets up with Sam (Jon Huckaby), her ex. They discuss their relationship, the fights they had, and their continuing feelings for each other.
For Scene 5, the tour returns to Jake’s, only the scene is played in the alley behind the restaurant. Alex (Laura Kaplan-Nieto) and Chris (Michael Nieto) take a break from Chris’ going-away party. Chris has taken the job in Chicago, and his friends have gathered to wish him bon voyage. Alex and Chris talk about how they’ve always liked each other but they were never available to date at the same time. Alex describes what she loves about San Diego, and says that she could never move to Chicago. Chris says…well, you should take the tour and find out.[php snippet=1]
The fun comes from traveling from venue to venue and watching the different sets of actors work. Alex is always wearing red, and Chris blue, so you can identify those two characters as you go along as the performers change. Since the performances are in public places, there is always the chance that something unplanned will happen. For example, while Jake’s and the Brass Rail were empty during the performance I saw, Bluestocking had customers (who ignored the scene); Pappalecco had a steady stream of passersby on the sidewalk, and a man who came out of a neighboring restaurant, joined the group for a while, and then departed; and the alley behind Jake’s was active with auto traffic, so both performers and audience had to watch what they were doing.
Theatrical performances are particularly enjoyable because even if you’ve planned them carefully there’s always the possibility that the performers will have to improvise. In performances in public spaces, the need to improvise becomes probable, not just possible.
Strolling through the scenes, one could argue that they are connected. The sex that seems about to happen in scene one could cause the reaction in scene two, and the type of sex could link to the hook-up that was trying to happen in scene three. Chris and Alex discuss Sam in scene one, and he appears in scene four. The Chicago job that Chris was perhaps going to get becomes the theme of scene five. But, there’s a lot of missing pieces if these scenes were to be construed as a play.
Better to enjoy them as an amusing walking tour through the drama of relationships, I think.
Location: Begins at Jake’s on 6th Wine Bar, 3755 6th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103, and continues throughout different businesses in Hillcrest. Arrive early to find parking.
Tickets may be purchased online at the company’s website, listed below. Remaining tickets, if any, may be purchased before each performance begins.