Oct. 30 2013 12:14 PM

North Coast Rep's grim drama tops our coverage of local plays

theater
Elaine Rivkin and David Ellenstein
Photo courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre

The somber cello by Diana Elledge that intersects scenes in the North Coast Repertory Theatre's production of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass sets the tone for a play that's relentlessly grim. The horror of Kristallnacht and the accompanying Nazi atrocities in 1938 Germany hover like a malevolent cloud, while the pitiably sad end days of Phillip and Sylvia Gellberg's life together in Brooklyn are front and center. The torment and desperation never let up, and they turn to melodrama, particularly in Act 2, when secrets and confessions come—too late.

Phillip Gellberg (don't call him "Goldberg") is a self-loathing Jew who's also forgotten how to love his wife, Sylvia, other than by merely possessing her. Their estrangement is complicated by Sylvia's "hysterical"—doctor-speak for "psychosomatic," courtesy of Dr. Harry Hyman—obsession with the bloodshed and inhumanity going on in Germany. Her hysteria has left her paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, clutching graphic newspaper reports. This frustrates and angers Phillip all the more, and he's got plenty of anger already. Even as the doctor, who's come between the two of them, tries to reason out the truth, the Gellbergs seem destined for despair. Cue the cello.

Ralph Elias is most effective as Phillip when he's simmering and not boiling over. As such, his scenes with North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein, nicely portraying Dr. Hyman, are more compelling than those with Elaine Rivkin, who plays Sylvia. Speaking of Rivkin, she does hysterical (again, Hyman's word) quite well, though the character as written seems to be grasping at any straw, leaving unclear what—or whom— she's looking for in her heart of hearts.

Director Rosina Reynolds has her cast (which also includes Shana Wride, John Herzog and Kerry McCue) potent and on-point, but the play's narrative is one with too many targets, and too many regrets and recriminations. You want to embrace the most sympathetic figure, but by the time you decide whom that is, the foreseeable end to Sylvia's paralysis and Phillip's self-loathing have coincided, and there is darkness. Questions unanswered. Cello silent.

Broken Glass runs through Nov. 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $37- $54. northcoastrep.org

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.

Opening

The Brothers Lipschitz: All we know about this one is that it was written by (and stars) Paul David Halem and is about two elderly brothers who, apparently, want to strangle each other. Opens Nov. 1 at Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com

Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival: Cygnet Theatre and the Playwrights Project will stage readings of four new plays by Rachael VanWormer, Ross Tedford Kendall, Robert John Ford and Todd Goodlett. The festival also includes afternoon and early-evening panel discussions, as well as "talk-backs" with the playwrights after each reading. Runs Nov. 1 through 3 at the Old Town Theatre. See cygnettheatre.com for the schedule.

Side Show: A musical based on a true story about conjoined twins and circus-freak-show performers Violet and Daisy Hilton, who find fame as a vaudeville act and search for true love. Opens Nov. 5 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

Skinless: The opening play of Moxie Theatre's ninth season follows a student who bases her dissertation on an obscure horror and sci-fi writer and gets more than she bargained for. Opens Nov. 1 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com

The Violet Hour: It's 1919, and a young publisher must decide whether to release his friend's novel or his mistress' memoir. Enter a mysterious, future-seeing, paper-spewing machine. Opens Nov. 1 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org

Now Playing

Evil Dead the Musical: Yep, a musical sendup of the classic 1980s horror-movie franchise. Blood will be spattered, so protective ponchos will be offered to those in the first three rows. Presented by Theatre Alive, it runs through Nov. 2 at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. theateralive.com

The Last Goodbye: Dig Jeff Buckley? How about Shakespeare? Get some of both from this modern take on Romeo and Juliet set to Buckley's music. Runs through Nov. 3 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Light Falling Down: The world-premiere drama set in both 1940s Poland and modern-day California follows a woman and the young Jewish girl she finds in her garden, hiding from the Nazis. Presented by Oceanside Theatre Company, it runs through Nov. 3 at The Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. oceansidetheatre.org

The Tallest Tree in the Forest: Daniel Beaty stars in his own one-man musical about the life of Paul Robeson, an early-20th-century football player, actor, singer and civil-rights activist who ended up getting blacklisted in the era of McCarthyism. Through Nov. 3 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity: Ion Theatre's political satire finds a TV-wrestling promoter casting a protagonist wrestler's young Indian-American protégé as a terrorist character called The Fundamentalist. Through Nov. 7 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com 

Broken Glass: In Arthur Miller's play set in 1930s New York, a doctor believes a woman's paralysis is all in her head, and as he treats her, aspects of her marriage are revealed. Through Nov. 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org

She-rantulas from Outer Space in 3D: A world-premiere comedy about an invading horde of mutant monsters and small-town mom who learns a horrible truth about her little daughter Suzie. Through Nov. 17 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org

Wit: An English professor dying from cancer reflects on her life during her final hours. Through Nov. 17 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

Suds: The Rockin' '60s Musical Soap Opera: The story of a young woman looking for love in a Laundromat frames a soundtrack of '60s hits. Runs through Dec. 1 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net

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