The Blameless, now in its world premiere in the Old Globe’s White Theatre, is an aftermath play. The sad events that preceded and shaped these particular moments are only peripherally important. The play is about what now must happen in order to heal and move on.
In a program note, author Nick Gandiello remembers seeing a news photo of two people, from opposite ends of a tragedy, embracing. How they got there is what this wise and crafty play explores. Gaye Taylor Upchurch is solidly effective in her staging of it and the Old Globe deserves substantial congratulations for producing it. The subject deserves contemplation these days and theatre welcomes such opportunities.
Ah, yes, the subject. A violent act, a tragic result, unhealed grief, no answers. Another random report from such an endless parade of anguished, dismal stories. Gandiello releases details reluctantly and gradually, only what’s needed to keep the interaction operating. It’s a risky approach. We all like stories. But the story he wants to tell is the one happening right now, not back then.
The Garcia family has reached out to a survivor from the other end of the violence. A connection has formed. Tonight’s the night. Nobody’s really sure what to expect. It’s a random, shapeless approach to healing but nothing else has done much good.
There are no real breakthroughs, no Ah HA! moments. These all are competent people, anxious to do the right things and worthy of trust for the future, but none of them exhibit magic insight. The main thing they share is the courage to keep trying, to stay the course.
On paper, these six could be mistaken as the core cast of a television sitcom, but they’re funny or stupid or worn in ways less entertaining and more true. Casually multi-cultural, they cope in cooperative fashion, tolerating generational friction, creeping technicalization and scraps of conflicting beliefs in favor of love and respect.
It takes a while to warm up to these actors in these roles. Lack of data makes them seem ordinary to the edge of tedium. Antoinette LaVecchia appears to be an off-the-shelf harried mom, dealing with a very contemporary school crisis involving Nataysha Rey as a sullen, impatient teenaged daughter we all recognize. Frank Pando is the usual schlub of a dad, wearing out before our eyes, and Lisa Colon-Zayas is his sharp-tongued spinster sister. Amara James Aja as the daughter’s boyfriend is alertly appealing and Stephen Barker-Turner as their visitor is a study in awkward exhaustion. All competent but so what?
Only as the circumstances emerge does their importance emerge. If these ordinary people can handle these challenges with these results, then perhaps there’s hope for us all.
Upchurch has all the actors pulling equal weight as they build toward the subtle catharsis. Silences and pauses become eloquent. A stack of papers – moved about, shuffled, covered up, hidden away – almost seems a supporting actor. A final clear-away scene in growing darkness before the play’s coda is a masterful stroke.
The designers all get it. Andrew Boyce made set selections from Banalmart. David Israel Reynoso’s costumes suggest utility with room for post-trauma recovery. Bradley King’s lighting ushers the emphasis around the stage as needed.
And when the kids shyly display the music they’re working on, Ryan Rumery puts aside flash and goes for the real thing. With the real results.
(Continues in the Globe White Theatre at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays; at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 26, 2017.)