La Jolla CA— When my family was young and we used to pile into the car for any number of our family excursions, I never dreamed some of them would come back to haunt me. Recently, I attended Moving Arts “The Car Plays: San Diego”, a concept developed and conceived by Paul Stein. In it a series of intimate 10-minute playlets, each taking place in a different car, audiences of two move from vehicle to vehicle to experience works by different playwrights,
At the site, the audience member is assigned to a different track: Lane, Boulevard and Route identified by the color ticket you are holding. At the time we were asked to follow an adorable young lady named Cushaé to the various rows of cars while she gave us a short tutorial on the beginnings of the college. When we arrived at the sight (just a short walk from the box office), each track was assigned a pair of ushers dressed in red jackets. They gave us our instructions as we approached our appropriate row.
First and foremost we were told not to talk to the actors in the cars. We were audience members but we could react to what was going on. After we entered our assigned car, the car doors were closed. We watched the drama or comedy unfold just inches away by one or two actors sitting in the front seat. In two cases, my audience partner and I were in the front and the actors were in the back seat. Exactly ten minutes later, our ushers opened the doors, and we moved to the next car in our row.
Fortuitously the very first ten minute a play we saw was called “Disneyland” by Paul Stein and by directed by Dana Schwartz. The scenario in the car played out similar to scenarios in my own car when my kids were small and we were all headed up to Disneyland for a day at the park. In this play called ‘Disneyland’, the actor or Dad Trey Nichols, has stopped the car just before we are about to enter Disneyland to scold his children (I guess that was us) because we/they were fighting and arguing about how to play ‘Angry Birds’.
This whole scolding took the entire ten minutes that we were in the car. He rambled and yelled, reprimanded yet talked about how much he loved us and he was doing it for our own good and that we would not be able go on the Matterhorn ride because we/they were fighting.
His rant filled the car, sometimes with muted understanding, some offerings of love, sometimes veering off on another subject. He then admitting that he, the Dad, had forgotten his wallet. Finally, he had to step out of the car for a cigarette. END! It never got that far with my brood, but it sounded like déjà vu all over again for me. Wow! I thought those days were gone and forgotten but I almost felt like I was the kid and was being scolded by Dad. I frowned and almost wanted to yell back at him. Yup, the kid in me wanted to rebel!
The others I saw included “Before We Go Home” by Richard Martin Hirsch, and director by Darin Anthony,” The Duo” by Jessica Blaire Smith and directed by Jason Duplissea, “ All Right” by Alex Lewin, directed by Robert Castro and “The Audience” by Jeff Sholl, directed by Matt Bretz.
“Before We Go Home” and “Alright” were the two most poignant, dealing with love and loss. In the first, Rich and Sue (Michael Shutt and D.J. Harner) are dealing with their emotions after they had to put down their beloved dog. The prospect of the ride home and no dog to greet them is overwhelming.
In “Alright” Chris (Charles Evans Jr.) is more than angry with his parents and decides to sleep in his car rather than come in to his house. His Dad, (Eddie Yaroch) refuses to let him off the hook that easily. The confrontation that ensues is wrenching watching. Listening to the pain of both father and son and hearing the simple but pointed dialogue made me teary eyed. La Jolla Playhouse commissioned the four plays by current and former MFA students from UCSD’s Graduate Playwriting Program, and they are receiving their world premiere in The Car Plays: San Diego. “Alright” is one of those commissioned plays. The others eleven are part of Stein’s repertoire.
What I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. There are a fifteen playlets in all and you can see all fifteen in one day or break it up and space them out. There is a 20-minute intermission and the entire evening or afternoon would involve three hours of very intimate theatre. It is not recommend for children. The plays cover the gamut from a drunken teenager to a Batman and Robin argument about going to Comic Con, to a young boy going off to war, to a divorce, to dogs left in an airport parking lot, to the loss of a child.
Last year the Playhouse offered as its inauguration show for its WOW program, “Susurrus” that involved a trek around the Botanical Gardens listening to a radio play with iPods given to them by the Playhouse.
If you are looking for something different, and this is definitely different, you will appreciate the experience.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: extended through March 11th:
5:30, 7, and 8:30 Thurs and Fri; 3, 4:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m. Sat. and Sunday.
Organization: La Jolla Playhouse
Where: 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 9203
Ticket Prices: $25.00for each five track
Venue: WOW (With Out Walls) outdoors in various cars.