Bob Potter was one of the founders in 1993 and executive producer of Santa Barbara’s Dramatic Women, and a noted playwright himself. An evening of three new short plays, DW’s first production since Potter’s death in 2010, honors his memory — reflecting love, honor, life, death and humanity.
Catherine Cole, once a resident of Santa Barbara and now living in Berkeley, is the writer and sole performer of Always. Together., a story lovingly told about a body forgotten by its owner until a vital component is lost. Cole sits in a chair center stage, appearing to read the story from a book in her hands, but her connection with the audience is warm and direct.
The telling of this very intimate story starts out in an abstract manner, the perspective so close it may seem impersonal. As the narrative shifts from third to first person, all comes into vivid focus. While the experience described is not familiar to most people, a deep vein of universality runs through this tale.
Wabi Sabi Underground by Ellen Anderson, DW’s artistic director, strikes a delicate balance of surreality, truth and tragedy. Two scientists (Allison Batty and Allan Stewart-Oaten) working in a lab a mile underground, tackling very different subject matter, address some of the bigger questions in life as they try to decide whether they can stand each other. As two young widows taking part in her study, Natasha Nicole Kaye and Stephanie Farnum bring unexpected elements of quirky humor.
The crowning glory of the evening is Rod Lathim’s autobiographical Unfinished Business, based on the true story of his mom’s last day.
Lathim, who founded Access Theatre, was instrumental in the development of the Marjorie Luke Theatre and is an assemblage artist and photographer, wrote and directed this deeply touching portrait of a family saying goodbye. It is sad, joyful, compelling, humorous and, most of all, real.
As the son learning profound things about himself through the experience of letting his mother go, Ryan Baumann’s performance is sincere and solid. As Mom, who still has some things to take care of on her way out, Ann Dusenberry is in turns tender, fierce and vulnerable. Solomon Ndung’u does a fine job of bringing a hint of mystery to the proceedings, and Katie Thatcher is a hoot as a free-spirited spirit.
Running through Sunday at Center Stage Theater, this heartfelt evening of theater should not be missed. See it with, or in memory of, someone you love.
— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.