The Last Schwartz
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

The Last Schwartz, now playing at Marin Theatre in Mill Valley, is a spaced out family comedy with enough gravity to hold you to the story line from beginning to end. The Schwartz’s, like many American families with strong ethnic ties, struggle with gravity and weightlessness. Some members of the family want to weigh everyone down with the same sense of tradition their deceased father had. Others are perfectly happy to float away into the weightless melting pot of traditionless Americana.

Only the autistic brother, Simon (Mark Phillips), seems to have found the right balance. Simon, an astronomer, is preparing for man’s colonization of the moon. Walking on the moon is like walking in water, says Simon, like walking on the bottom of a swimming pool. He’s a man of few words, an almost unseen observer to the many conflicts in his family’s ancestral home, but when he speaks, his words have multiple meanings depicting his family as well as the world family and the universe. The gravitational pull of the family just isn’t as strong as it used to be. It’s gone through a reduction; it’s more like the gravitational pull of the moon than of the earth.

The character that provides the most comic relief in this play is Kia (Megan Towle). The girlfriend of Gene Schwartz (Darren Bridgett), Kia is free of all family, ethnic and religious ties. A California girl trying to make it as an actress, she doesn’t know who her parents were, yet she is the healthiest person in the play. When asked by the traditional Norma (Sharon Lockwood) what she believes in, Kia simply says, “I believe in having a good time.”

Written by Deborah Zoe Laufer, The Last Schwartz takes place on the one-year anniversary of father Schwartz’s death. Though the surface story fitfully whirls the audience off into bursts of laughter, a traditional undercurrent drives the nails into a deeper drama that questions all tradition and seeks new answers outside the planet earth.

For tickets or more information call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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