Summerland
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Benjamin Privitt

All the characters in Brian Thorstenson’s Summerland are “waiting for something.” Bud (Zac Jaffee) is waiting for someone to accept him for who he is. Bud’s mom Doreen (Anne Darragh) is waiting nervously for her son to choose a direction in life. Part of her is also waiting for someone to change her traumatized view of men. Doreen’s Grandmother Aura (Patricia Silver) is a restless spirit waiting to see what is going to happen to her granddaughter. Her ethereal personality is always willing to give earthly advice to anyone who will listen: “No time for self pity,” she says. “That’s the deal you make with this land.”

The land is of summer: “It’s hot,” says director Ken Sonkin. “It’s that part of our yearly cycle which at once, can warm our skin, and parch our hearts. It is the time when the sun is closest to us giving us light – illuminating things about ourselves that may have been clothed in layers of fear and hurt. It’s a place that heals us, that gives the land its nutrients for the other three seasons. It’s a land where there’s no school, no direction, no guiding voices, except from those of our past. It’s a land of no obstacles – except our deepest inner ones.”

In these words, Sonkin reflects the poetic words of Thorstenson who is probably also waiting to see if audiences will enjoy this family, coming of age drama. There is something very old fashioned and American about Summerland that echoes authors like William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson. We feel transported to small town America where time almost stands still. Yet the story is a sensitive present day portrait of one family’s acceptance of a gay son.

“You know what pisses me off?” the character of truck-driving gun-shooting Tom (Michael Navarra) says. “Waitin’.” No need to wait to see this well acted AlterTheater production in downtown San Rafael. For tickets or more information call (415) 457-2787 or visit www.altertheater.org. Also, keep your ears open for some great sound effects by Norman Kern.

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