History, of both a textbook and a personal nature, define Lionel Goldstein's new play, Mandate Memories, which is having its world premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach under the direction of David Ellenstein.
A postcard-pleasant country house in Britain's Berkshire County, circa 2009, is the setting for these significant history lessons, which have a deep-seated effect on Holocaust survivor Gustav Frolich (Apollo Dukakis) and the unsuspecting— but increasingly wary—Jane Stirling (Rosina Reynolds), owner and lone inhabitant of the house to whom Gustav pays a visit. Before that visit is over, dark secrets are revealed and Gustav's and Jane's lives will have changed in a way that will leave your heart in your throat.
The British Mandate for Palestine, which went into effect in 1923, was designed to administer parts of what had once been the Ottoman Empire. What it became was a dividing of Palestine that established a national home for the Jews. The mandate and its consequences are embedded in Gustav's tortured past, and Jane believes that her father, whom she never knew, died a hero in a fight against terror. But what begins as a tense philosophical confrontation between the pair soon becomes chilling human drama as, at an almost achingly deliberate pace, Gustav tells Jane the truth behind her father's death and the role he himself has played in her life ever since.
Goldstein and Ellenstein, North Coast Rep's artistic director, previously worked together on the playwright's Halpern and Johnson, and the seamlessness of their collaboration is clear in Mandate Memories' effective shifts in tone and in the development of the complex relationship between Gustav and Jane. Dukakis and Reynolds are stalwart in their performances, the latter especially affecting in her stunned silences and internal torment as Gus shares with Jane some gut-wrenching realities.
Ever-present on a table in Jane's living room, untouched, is the letter Gus has brought to her, written by her father to her mother. Its contents are not revealed, but by story's end, you know it's speaking to Jane's heart—and possibly to ours.
Mandate Memories runs through May 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $41-$48. northcoastrep.org
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Passion: Ion Theatre closes its eighth season with this Stephen Sondheim musical about a 19th-century soldier caught between his affair with a married woman and a mentally troubled woman's love for him. Opens in previews on April 19 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go To Heaven?: A seasonal one-woman comedy starring Kathryn Gallagher. Runs April 21 and 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
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Wagner New Play Festival: The annual series of plays—three full-lengths, two one-acts and a staged reading—written, directed and performed by UCSD graduate students. It runs April 16 through 26 on several UCSD stages. theatre.ucsd.edu
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The Liar: An adaptation by David Ives of a 17th-century play about a man who tells multiple fibs as he courts one of two sisters, mistakenly believing she's the other sibling. Through April 27 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
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Mandate Memories: This is a world premiere of a drama about an elderly Holocaust survivor who pays a visit to a British woman whose father was killed by Jewish terrorists. Through May 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
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To Kill a Mockingbird: The classic drama with the best character names in the history of film or theater: Atticus, Scout, Gem, Dill and Boo. Through May 4 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.com
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