Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

This Random World
North Coast Repertory Theatre
Review by David Dixon | Season Schedule

Also see David's review of Camping with Henry & Tom and Bill's review of Uncle Vanya

Kevin Hafso Koppman and Lisel Gorell-Getz
Photo by Aaron Rumley
Intertwining stories continue to be popular with critics and audiences, whether they are written for the big screen, the small screen, or the stage. They give plenty of performers the opportunity to standout and shine. For these types of narratives to work, however, writers and directors have to make sure that the tales they create feel fresh and original, not familiar and contrived. Steven Dietz's comedy-drama This Random World handles themes of interconnection without turning pretentious, largely because of his casual and humorous style of dialogue. It's a show that is technically big in scope, but the scenarios feel grounded.

Seven major characters are introduced in the early scenes. Thirty-eight-year-old Beth Ward (Lisel Gorell-Getz) is becoming concerned with her mortality and believes that her younger brother Tim (Kevin Hafso Koppman) is too much of a slacker. She also thinks that her elderly mom Scottie (Anne Gee Byrd) isn't living an exciting existence. Little do the children know that their mother takes international trips with her loyal caretaker Bernadette (Yolanda Franklin). The caretaker's relationship with her sister Rhonda (Ava Hill) is tense for reasons that aren't immediately clear. Two other people whose lives end up intersecting with the other plots are the former couple Claire (Diana Irvine) and Gary (Patrick Zeller). They handle the aftermath of their breakup in completely different ways.

There's a lot going on in Dietz's script and almost everything he writes is easy to follow. With the exception of Claire's first scene, which is a little too wordy, the audience gets a good sense of the players after they are introduced. Dietz's comedic dialogue allows theatregoers to enjoy spending time with the various men and women who show up in the North Coast Repertory Theatre's area premiere of the play. When the various plots start to really develop, they lead to a lot of dramatic irony, as Dietz's characters aren't always aware of the different connections they share. If some of the twists are surprising and funny, the revelations generally inspire intimate conversations, rather than resulting in big speeches and declarations about the meaning of life.

Artistic Director David Ellenstein presents the evening in an easygoing way that honors Dietz's text. Even at a brisk 85 minutes, he finds room for unrushed discussions and quiet moments. Marty Burnett's set, Matt Novotny's lighting, and sound designer Melanie Chen Cole's use of music are similarly subtle, and their work contributes to a relaxed atmosphere. Production manager Aaron Rumley's projections help move the night along by showcasing the different locations where events take place. Having these elements not overpower the interpretation is an excellent approach; otherwise, the appeal and warmth of This Random World might not have been as powerful.

Like plenty of ensemble efforts, not a single person is given a majority of stage time, mainly because almost all of them are only in a handful of scenes. When cast members such as Koppman, Gorell-Getz, Byrd, or Franklin speak to each other, they make it believably appear that they share a lot of history together. Each artist displays enjoyable comic timing throughout the evening, and they all find authentic touches to appear like real people. As there aren't a whole lot of arguments or confrontations in which situations turn dramatic, the script and players rely on moments of silence for almost all of the serious moments.

Not everything is wrapped up neatly in This Random World and not everything needs to be. Dietz ends the evening on a satisfying note and a lot of the characters do grow as the play concludes. Still, I get the sense that Dietz could easily write a sequel if he were inclined to do so. His characters seem like they could still have plenty of entertaining adventures left following the epilogue.

Witty and filled with universal truths, Dietz's terrific dramedy should leave you thinking about your relationships with the people closest to you. Seeing his characters interact with each other is the biggest reason why the rendition is worth the trip to Solana Beach.

North Coast Repertory Theatre presents This Random World through March 18, 2018, at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach CA. Performs Sundays through Saturdays. Tickets start at $42.00 and can be purchased online at or by phone at 1-858-481-1055.

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