InnerMission Productions is a theatre company that has focused primarily on producing new plays or plays that might not otherwise be produced in San Diego. The company also provides opportunities for young or starting actors to develop roles and perform for audiences. For the first time the company has embarked on a formal season, rather than sporadic individual productions. The season includes one world premiere, Disappearing Act, performing through December 20 at Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box space, down the hall from its main stage.
Give the company a lot of credit: it’s put together a thoughtful, professional-level, show on a limited budget. Everyone involved seems committed and emotionally connected to the material (there’s real tears on the actors’ faces at several points). And, the play eloquently portrays a family’s experience with their soldier-son’s overseas deployments and the PTSD that developed in the process.
At this point in its development, Disappearing Act feels like playwright Delia Knight’s personal story, a memoir of sorts. It centers on Alexander (Steve Froehlich), a Marine who has been deployed to a combat zone. The play opens with his mother (Kaly McKenna), sister (Jamie Channell Guzman) and girlfriend (Rebecca Doyle Dorado) awaiting his return. Alex’s father is not there, preferring his son’s company mostly on the hunting trips where the young Alex became familiar with guns and killing. Alex has been looking forward to his home time, but he has trouble adjusting. He sleeps a lot, drinks a lot, and things don’t go well with his girlfriend, Emma.
Returning to deployment, Alex shares hopes, dreams, and the reality of combat with his buddies, Buck (Salvador Velasco) and Kick (Robert Malave). The three are close, and when tragedy hits while they are out on patrol, Alex is greatly affected. It doesn’t help that Emma has decided to break up with him while he’s deployed.
Coming home after the second deployment, Alex is even more troubled. He continues to drink, fights with his sister, and resists his mother’s attempts to help. Another tragedy pushes him over the edge, and the play ends somewhat ambiguously, though with some indication that there is still hope for Alex.
Director Kym Pappas has staged the production sensitively, and the actors respond in kind. As Alex, Mr. Froehlich is more of a wounded warrior than the soldier he recently played in Moxie’s Orange Julius. Ms. McKenna empathizes with his wounds and tries to provide the rock she thinks Alex needs. The other performers have roles that are less well developed and the performers struggle more to play their characters dimensionally.
I’m glad that InnerMission tackled this project. I’d hope that as the play continues to develop Ms. Knight would put some distance between herself and her admittedly eloquently-told story, try to look more critically at the insights she has to offer audiences about families and PTSD, and emphasize those insights to a greater extent in the script.