Review: Craig Wright’s “The Pavilion”—old lovers meet at a high school reunion and unload 20 years of baggage—at Cinnabar Theater through September 22, 2013
Can you turn back the clock on love and start over? That’s just one of the questions raised in Craig Wright’s delicate drama The Pavilion, which opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season. Emmy nominee Wright, who also penned episodes for TV shows like “Six Feet Under” and “Lost,” is no stranger to the difficult but endlessly fascinating state of human connection and creating characters that embody the walking wounded. The Pavilion, written in 2,000 and directed by Tara Blau, delivers many laughs amidst the universally familiar pain and frustration of love gone sour. The play’s psychological acuity represents a slight but welcome shift in Cinnabar’s programming.
The Pavilion is enacted by three main characters and is set around a 20th high school reunion in Pine City, a small town that feels a lot like old Petaluma. Sami Granberg and Nathan Cummings portray old lovers, Keri and Peter, who encounter one another at a high-school reunion. Keri is now married and her life as a bank employee who escorts people to and from their safety deposit boxes is as stagnate as her marriage. Peter is a big beefy likable guy, a therapist who’s in need of therapy himself. He’s in a relationship but has come to the reunion hoping for another chance at love with Keri whom he abandoned twenty years ago after getting her pregnant. Peter’s betrayal of Keri altered both of their lives for the worse and he wants redemption.
As the Narrator, Jeff Coté starts the play off philosophically by setting its context as the slow forward march of time. He also adroitly plays a surprising number of secondary characters at the reunion who nudge Peter and Keri through their interactions. Aided by Coté’s mastery of gestures, these humorous encounters reveal a motley collective of broken and warped souls at the Pine City reunion.
Under the feigned joviality of reconnection, everyone wants something. Peter is most honest about his sense of dissatisfaction about where life has led him. He is desperate to salvage lost love which he has fantasized will be his only real shot at happiness in this life but he must first get Keri to talk with him. The clock stopped for Keri emotionally when she made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy. Twenty years later, she is still childless and anguished, and she claims she wants nothing to do with Peter. A bevy of push pull signals reveal otherwise though. The burning questions—will reconnecting heal their old wounds or inflame them? Will talking about what transpired and the mistakes that were made free them to move on with their lives separately, or, will they find happiness ever after with each other?
Cinnabar Theater’s Tara Blau directs an exceptional dramatic journey which is well worth the price of admission (which is about half of what you’ll pay elsewhere). Joe Elwick’s set is a wonderfully simple slice of small town nostalgia— a wooden dance hall, the Pavilion, with just a few tables and mood-setting Japanese lanterns whose backdrop is a picturesque lake. To one side, there’s a garden and swing. The Pavilion, ironically slated for destruction right after the reunion, holds a special place in the hearts of those former students and suggests the fragility of the past.
In Wayne Hovey’s capable hands, the beautiful lighting becomes a vehicle of great transformation, capable of evoking a myriad of moods and the magic of shooting stars.
From the beginning of the play, the Narrator (Coté ) functions as an all-seeing poetic consciousness capable of tracking the movements of the universe, from the enormous cosmos right down to the development of the little pavilion that is human consciousness and further down to this particular moment in Pine City High’s history. Philosophically, every person becomes a lens through which the whole reflects itself and every passing moment a unique outgrowth of this unique universe. It’s impossible to erase the past and start over but Peter imagines he is entitled to happiness and begs the Narrator to intervene and stop the inevitable.
Petaluman Nathan Cummings steps into the role of Peter with ease. Here’s a guy who screwed up royally years ago and Cumming makes him fascinating as he ruminates dreamingly on why he’s entitled to another chance and how he’ll become a better man through love. His shining moment comes when he takes to the pavilion and serenades Keri with “Down in the Ruined World,” a ballad which he delivers with intention.
Sami Granberg creates a resonant Keri—in a red satin dress, she’s still a youthful looking woman but she is frozen in bitterness and resigned to her fate.
The Pavilion is one of the most engaging plays I’ve seen at Cinnabar. The story is laced with the pathos of regret and there’s no easy answer to the emotional wreckage that has emerged…the acting is genuine and it all rings true.
Details: The Pavilion ends September 22, 2013. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.
Tickets: $25 for adults and $15 for ages 21 and under. Significant discounts available as part of a ticket package. Purchase tickets online at www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920
Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM. Tickets may also be available at the door, but advance purchase is recommended. Seating is general admission but the theatre is open about 30 minutes prior to each performance.
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