by David Greig
Studio 58/Langara College and Rumble Productions
Studio 58, Langara College, 100 West 49th Ave.
604.257.0366 or www.festivalboxoffice.com
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
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
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.