Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Sep 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Splitting Heirs

ae hg1Toxic family ties explored in JTC's engrossing 'Hello & Goodbye'

Two of Santa Cruz's best known and most dependable actors receive a gift of a play in the Jewel Theatre Company's new production of Athol Fugard's “Hello & Goodbye”—a gift that keeps on giving to local audiences in this intense evening of dramatic theater. Played with both terrific brio and aching subtlety by Mike Ryan and Julie James, and directed by Bay Area theater veteran Jessica Heidt, Fugard's two-character drama emerges as an incisive, microcosmic look at family, class, and cultural dysfunction in South Africa of the recent past.

The story is set in 1965, the year in which the play was written: Nelson Mandela had just been sent to prison, apartheid policies were in full flower, and the white Afrikaner minority was struggling to maintain its political control over an increasingly rebellious population. But the viewer doesn't have to know anything about South African history or politics to be moved by the core tale of fractured family dynamics as a pair of adult siblings confront each other, themselves, and the twisted legacy inherited from their parents.

Johnny (Ryan) is a timid, middle-aged man who has lived his entire life in the same shabby Port Elizabeth house with his domineering father. He's a man of few needs and even fewer desires; a beer and a lemon cream biscuit are the most exotic, illicit luxuries he can imagine. Ryan introduces the character in a virtuoso opening monologue that begins with a game of counting out the seconds of a life spent in "waiting," and escalates into a Hamlet-like consideration of whether he's going mad. The audience must pay attention to realize that the unwieldy object Johnny describes as recently carried out of the house by three men, "Finally, just a thing," was the body of his deceased dad.

ae hg2Although uncertain how to proceed on his own, Johnny takes no comfort from the sudden reappearance of his brash and angry prodigal sister, Hester (James). Having run away years ago to "JoBurg," and supported herself the way women usually do in big cities without money or skills, Hester has only come back because she wants something, Johnny is convinced, and so he refuses to tell her their father is gone, maintaining the fantasy that the old man is still sleeping in a back bedroom.

Hester is indeed searching for something, the financial  "compensation" their father sought for years after he was crippled in a mining accident. As the siblings search through boxes of family memorabilia, unpacking the dress of their beloved mother (who died "frightened" and too young), their father's crutches, a document revealing the truth of why Johnny never left, and a lifetime of resentment, it becomes clear that Hester is searching for a "compensation" of her own—"just one thing that ever made me happy." In the long shadow cast by the racist, controlling, absent father as the play hurtles toward its effective conclusion, we see how toxic traditions and attitudes continue to cripple succeeding generations.

Ryan is that rare actor who can play every tragic note of Johnny's character ("I don't love, I don't hate, I play it safe"), yet still find grace moments of innocence, comedy, and warmth. James is excellent too, modulating Hester's aggressive unhappiness with glimmers of unexpected tenderness. (And it's no mean feat that both players maintain convincing Afrikaner accents throughout.) The drab, lived-in clutter of Ron Gasparinetti's single set, Erik Gandolfi's moody sound design (a rattling train to signal Johnny's flirtations with madness; soft humming during reveries of their mother), and Heidt's bold direction all contribute to this engrossing, emotional production. Photos: Steve DiBartolomeo

“Hello & Goodbye” runs Thursdays-Sundays, now though March 18, at Center Stage, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz. For tickets and more information, call 425-7506, or visit JewelTheatre.net.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.