by David Greig
Studio 58/Langara College and Rumble Productions
Studio 58, Langara College, 100 West 49th Ave.
October 6-23
604.257.0366 or

In San Diego, Scottish playwright David Greig proposes two primary metaphors for life in the 21st century. 

One is an airplane, mobile, border-defying, and the optimal size for an organic community.  The other is the American metropolis of the title as Greig imagines it, a characterless modern catch-basin for people of many cultures as adrift in it as the desert sands that threaten to bury the city.

Greig weaves together four stories about anomie, rootlessness and the hunger for home, mixing styles and tones, realism, melodrama, surrealism and the absurd.  The play is held together—barely—by the character of Greig (Alexander Ferguson), a Scottish playwright visiting San Diego, soon to be a ghost.  He is knifed to death by Daniel (Stuart Pierre in an affecting performance), an illegal immigrant from Africa searching for his mother who abandoned him to sing with Paul McCartney and Wings. 

The Pilot (Allan Gray) who flew both Greig and Daniel to San Diego wanders through the city, trying to hire a hooker (a sympathetic Lissa Neptuno) and save the wounded Greig, visiting his film actor son Andrew (Joshua Dixon), disconnected from his mentally ill, suicidal daughter Laura (Emma Slipp).  Andrew’s wife (Cat Main) finds God and becomes a nun.  Laura hooks up with fellow patient David (Daryl King), who suffers from attention deficit disorder.  Daniel is befriended by two other immigrants (Patrick Keating and Nathan Zeitner) who adopt him, rename him Greylag (after a goose), and teach him to flip burgers and work at a call centre.

Get the idea? San Diego is a theatre of dream, of phantasmagoria, a city found only on the map of the playwright’s imagination. The disparate pieces of the theatrical puzzle don’t fit together easily, and director Norman Armour has little success finding its thematic logic or stylistic harmony in this co-production between Rumble Theatre’s professionals and the students of Studio 58.

Parts of the play are deadly serious, especially the subplot involving mentally anguished Laura and her relationships with her new soulmate David (strong work from both student actors) and with Daddy the Pilot, himself a psychological basket case, played by Gray with deep naturalistic gravity. They are set against Daniel’s goofy immigrant friends, refugees from Dumb and Dumber who seem to have wandered into Waiting for Godot.

The production’s mishmash of styles and accents only makes these juxtapositions more jarring.  Gray utilizes a broad British accent while everyone else besides Ferguson’s Greig, who sports a thick Scottish brogue, speaks flat Canadian, even when their idiom (“Got any fags? Give us one”) is as British as the Pilot’s.  These are egregious confusions in a play exploring the question of where is home.

Craig Hall’s set and John Webber’s lighting offer some striking visual effects, and UK import Nick Powell contributes a haunting soundscape.

Jerry Wasserman


last updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 12:31 PM
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