NEW YORK—Elisabeth Karlin’s Bodega Bay could be described as a search, travel, or road story. But these terms don’t do justice to the unique, quirky content of the heroine’s (mis)adventures.
Louise Finch (Susan Louise O’Connor), a shy woman in her late thirties, has never left her home in Staten Island. But now she is pressed for money for her meth-addicted brother, Scottie (Brian McManamon), who is presently in an unpleasant detox facility. Scottie can’t stand being there and is threatening to leave.
Louise pleads that she will somehow get the money to place him in an elegant rehab facility where he will be content and will be cured. How? She will search for their mother, who abandoned them 15 years ago, and get the money from her.
Setting out, she meets a barfly (Rae C. Wright) in a bar once frequented by her mom. The bar was formerly called Til-Two, although the barfly insists that the place stayed open until four. Their discussion is fruitless, but it does trigger an angry memory in the bartender (Gerardo Rodriguez). He advises Louise to find George Kaplan who, the bartender claims, would know of the mother’s whereabouts.
Kaplan (Peter Brouwer) turns out to be an unpleasant old grouch—he only wants to see the person who every week brings the dog that comforts him. But while there, Louise does manage to obtain, with the aid of Kaplan’s home health aide (also played by Wright), a piece of jewelry that had belonged to her mother.
Louise is encouraged, but her confrontations become more and more bizarre. She meets young couple Pamela (Nancy Rodriguez) and Richard (McManamon), who first welcome her warmly into their home, then turn violently against her.
A drunken professor named Collins (Brouwer) persuades Louise to drive them both to Las Vegas in his car, but Louise can’t drive and doesn’t have a license. Nevertheless, she undertakes the trip (in a cute representation of a car’s steering apparatus by set designer Andrew Lu); they make it, and Louise experiences a strong sense of accomplishment.
Developments become more sinister, as Louise is taken virtually into custody by an elegant couple, David and Ann Wordsmith (Brouwer and Wright). Ann constantly corrects Louise’s grammar, which upsets her. Louise learns that the couple is known as The Editors, a term apparently designed to strike fear into anyone (possibly a playwright?). Other bizarre events take place.
When brother Scottie informs Louise that he will marry the sexy and slightly ditsy Nova (Nancy Rodriguez), a fellow addict, Louise can let go of her responsibility to him. Then Louise meets Juan Garza (Gerardo Rodriguez), the detective who formerly had been of help to her. Louise hasn’t found her mother—it is hinted that she may (or may not) have died. Yet one senses improvement in Louise’s basic viewpoint.
As we leave our heroine gazing up at the tall redwood trees in northern California, one feels that there may be hope. As Garza once said to her, “Que sera sera.”
The play always intrigues: Who among us hasn’t felt at one time or another the urge to search for someone or something? One is left with various emotions, even opposing ones: regret, optimism, sadness.
Louise, in the capable hands of actress O’Connor, is charming and appealing. Others in the cast more than fulfill their assignments, especially when one considers that all but O’Connor must play from two to five roles each. Director Sturgis Warner has skillfully tied together the various elements.
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
312 West 36th Street, 1st floor
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Tickets: 212-868-2055 or visit www.abingdontheatre.org
Closes: Feb. 17
Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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