“If no one looks at you, do you exist?”
Life among the human species is all about connection – personal, with your true self; emotional with an “other;” or social, with one or more groups.
Local playwright James Caputo has knit together four of his short plays about the second kind of connection in his “The Season of Love,” in its world premiere through Dec. 10 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. John Tessmer directs.
Jane (Sherri Allen) sits in a coffee shop, content to be alone with her coffee and a crossword puzzle, until she’s interrupted by mild-mannered Anthony (Paul Morgavo), looking for one of three computer dates he’s set up but now can’t recall which one he’s to meet where.
Despite her obvious (and repeated) lack of interest, he keeps talking until they establish that they’re both divorced and lovers of things Italian.
Will they meet again? Perhaps.
Next, we’re in a funeral home, where Mary (Grace Delaney), an older lady who speaks with a lovely Irish lilt, has come to visit Mr. O’Malley, the deceased, known to all as “the bingo king.”
When Amy (Rhiannon McAfee), a younger woman, shows up looking lost and uncertain (and complaining of the cold), Mary strikes up a conversation and offers amusing reasons for the temperature.
It turns out that Amy is practicing for the real thing: her father is in the hospital with end-stage Parkinson’s disease.
In the third story we’ll meet two couples in an Italian restaurant: Jane and Anthony – the hopeful pair from the coffee shop – and David (Eric Poppick and his wife Ruth (Jill Drexler), who are either celebrating their anniversary or settling the terms of their divorce.
Caputo has great, even poetic powers of description. Here’s Ruth, describing the decay of their marriage: “You see, love drips out of a marriage slowly over time until the one thing left holding it together is desiccated cartilage....One day the skin is punctured, and nothing but dust falls from the wound.”
The last section – and the least successful – offers two homeless people. Alfred (Morgavo) has lost Mags (we don’t find out who that is) but still has lots of friends – a sizable box of books, mostly classics – that he drags around. But he was robbed at the shelter, and lost his glasses. He has left the shelter and appropriated a refrigerator box from a local store, and intends to make that home.
He’s just come from a failed attempt to vote. “I no longer have an identity,” he wails. “If no one looks at you, do you exist?”
Eloise (Julie Clemmons) has apparently lost it all as well, and seems to have a tenuous grip on reality to boot. But she’s determined to make the best of the situation.
“No one should be alone at this time of year. It’s the season of love,” she says.
This section seems a bit out of place with the others, the characters less believable. It could use a rewrite; it comes across as more political screed than human story.
But for the most part, Tessmer and his fine cast make this set of vignettes work nicely.
Sherri Allen is engaging as leave-me-alone divorced New York Times puzzle freak Jane. Jill Drexler and Eric Poppick are likewise familiar as the pair whose marriage has long since grown stale.
Grace Delaney and Rhiannon McAfee are funny and touching as visitors to the bingo king.
Julie Clemmons works to make the homeless Eloise believable, but it’s an uphill battle. That part of the script could use a bit of work. She’s fine as a server in the third section.
But it’s Paul Morgavo who gets a workout as both anxious computer dater Anthony and homeless Alfred. He also plays a funeral home employee in the second section. Bravo, Paul.
Bob Shuttleworth’s simple set design with movable props works well, and the other tech jobs as nicely handled as well: Mitchell Simkovsky on lighting, Violet Ceja’s sound design and Dawn Fuller-Korink’s costumes.
It’s nice to see local writing talent on display, and Caputo provides a good deal of that. “The Season of Love” is worth a look.
“The Season of Love” plays through December 10, 2017 at Scripps Ranch Theatre, 9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch (on the campus of Alliant International University)
Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or www.scrippsranchtheatre.org