Regional Reviews: San Diego
Lissette (Aleque Reid), a headstrong young woman, is dying. She knew the news was bad when, after enduring lots of tests, the doctor's office wanted her to come in for a face-to-face meeting. What she has is degenerative, moving quickly, and the only treatments involve making her more comfortable. She will quickly become wheelchair bound and will lose the ability to speak.
At the beginning of the play, Lissette has made a fateful decision. She knows how this is going to end, and she also knows that it's what she wants. Her best friend Peter (Reggie D. White) is supportive. Her mother Cheryl (Deirdre Lovejoy) isn't so sure. This first scene is about as close to the end of the story as the play is going to get. The rest of the 90 minutes will be spent going back over the details: how Lissette knew that something was wrong, how she took the news, how her friend Peter got involved, and where their relationship went as a result. And how Cheryl went from being opposed to Lissette's plan to understanding and accepting it.
Most importantly, Ms. Ross is concerned with love, its various forms, and how those forms of love play out in relationships. This focus makes her play affirming in all the best ways. There's a lot of humor, which serves to lighten the emotional load.
The cast never falters under Jaime Castañeda's astute direction. Cheryl, in particular, is not always sympathetic, but it is clear that she means well. Lissette is determined to do this "thing" her own way. Peter is, for the most part, accepting and calming. His presence is an emotional catalyst for changes in the chemical reaction between the two women.
The production is spare (Tim Mackabee, set designer; Denitsa Bliznakova, costume designer; Lap Chi Chu, lighting designer; and Ryan Rumery, sound designer and composer). The broad and not very deep expanse of the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre's stage is divided into three playing spaces. One belongs to Lissette, one to Cheryl, and the one in between is a place of relationship building. Ms. Ross has organized the play in terms of emotional development, not chronology, but never fear, nothing gets muddled in the actors' and the director's capable hands.
World premiere productions often yield ideas for revision. There are a few places where tweaks and trims would help, but not many. Taken on its own terms, The Luckiest succeeds in telling an emotionally involving and evolving story with plenty of love.
The Luckiest, through July 28, 2019, at La Jolla Playhouse, the University of California San Diego, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla CA. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm; Thursdays. Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are available by calling 858-550-1010 or by visiting lajollaplayhouse.org. Ample parking is available; check to see what parking fee is being charged at the time of the performance.