Julianne Jigour Conjures Oceanic Unity
by Michael V. Rodriguez
The ocean taunts Angelinos. There’s 0% chance of rain, but there’s plenty of displaced water. “Bright Shining Sea” celebrates the frame of mind that receives and offers empathy. When we’re down and need the right people, we find them in odd places.
A hellish heat wave pushes six Angelinos to the breaking point. In the wake of a severe drought, locals are plagued by memory loss, heartbreak, and miscarriage. Julianne Jigour takes a tragicomic look at what happens when our expectations are dashed by harsh reality. The planet needs a therapist, too.
When Maya (doe-eyed Lisa Morse) miscarries, her partner Brian (enthralling Aaron Wilton) fails to console her. Both partners are hurting, and neither can help. Maya’s drunken digs at Brian keep us laughing, but her dark humor reveals deep loss. Maya is determined to destroy herself.
Maya’s sister Eileen is also undergoing a tragedy. Forgetful Eileen (stalwart Stacy Ross), who studies the effect of acidic water on sea butterflies, sports the short, disheveled haircut of a mad scientist. Eileen forgets to turn off burners, lock doors, and attend her daughter’s swim meets.
Eileen’s daughter Sylvia (vivacious Nicole Apostol Bruno) worries about her mother, but Eileen flashes the confidence of a savant. Eileen and Sylvia weep together, inspiring our tears of empathy.
We secretly chuckle when Brian seeks help from a narcoleptic therapist named Wendy (multi-faceted Anne Darragh). Wendy is too caught up avoiding her own trauma to help Brian, but she has plenty of time to aim snide comments at him. Anne Darragh’s dry delivery has us in stitches.
Wendy is furious with her cheating husband, and lets us know! Her son Paul (endearing Brady Morales-Woolery) gets through to her, but Wendy’s suppressed sadness bursts forth like the insurgent ocean.
Paul saves Maya from drowning and he penetrates his mother’s facade so she can begin to heal. But nobody comes to rescue Paul. Paul shows us how to pull ourselves out of the mire.
Sylvia’s strong shoulders bend into fierce freestyle strokes. “Turn, break the surface, breathe,” she repeats, vying for the top spot. We watch Sylvia’s performance on the edge of our seats. Her childlike idealism is charming, but her doubts race, as she swims for the gold. We feel for Sylvia as she watches her mother’s memory deteriorate.
Tracy Ward directs a well-paced story that draws us into a sweltering city with an array of sparse scenes. We feel the openness of the beach, opposed to the claustrophobia of packed clubs and apartments.
The beautiful sound design of beaches and pools adds depth to looming bodies of water, overflowing the intimate stage. Julia Jigour immerses us in that approaching sea.
“Bright Shining Sea” reminds us of the beauty of community. If we let others help us, then we can overcome our fears and step into the future. Playground Festival tempts us to jump into that “Bright Shining Sea” and emerge rejuvenated.
“Bright Shining Sea” by Julianne Jigour, directed by Tracy Ward, by Playground Festival , at Potrero Stage, San Francisco, through Saturday, June 16, 2018. Info: playground-sf.org
Cast: Aaron Wilton, Lisa Morse, Stacy Ross, Nicole Apostol Bruno, Anne Darragh, and Brady Morales-Woolery.
Banner photo: Ann Darragh (Wendy) & Aaron Wilton (Brian)