by Beki Pineda

THIS RANDOM WORLD – Written by Steven Dietz; Directed by Kirsten Jorgensen-Smith. Produced by Coal Creek Theatre Company (Presented at the Louisville Center for the Arts, 802 Grant Street, Louisville) through November 13. Tickets available at 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org.

Definition of Random:  Happening without method or conscious decision; unspecified. Years ago I saw a show that had a series of doors. Two people would be having a conversation on stage; one person would leave and walk through a door stage left as someone entered stage right who could have been very important to their life if they had just hesitated for a few minutes more. This play is like that – a series of near missed opportunities, a random group of people who are connected in ways they don’t know. Things could have turned out very differently if only. . .

Dietz, a local boy born and raised in Denver and a graduate of UNC, seems to have an avid curiosity for random events in the world, random situations of the “what if” variety, and the quirky and unexpected ways people respond to different scenario’s when presented to them. I’m sure he observed a missed opportunity among his encounters with students or actors or friends and thought to himself, “I wonder what would have happened if he had stayed at that party for ten minutes longer.” In this instance a brother Tim and his sister Beth interact with their mother who has a lot more going on than they are aware. Mom Scottie has a caregiver, Bernadette who has a sister Rhonda. Claire and Gary have broken up and gone their separate ways which allows Gary to bump into Beth in Nepal while Rhonda is going on a mission for Scottie who is too sick to travel any more. And the story (almost too convoluted to call it a plot) goes round and round. In a delightful way.

The new configuration of the stage at Coal Creek (because of Covid restrictions) made the multiple sets required in this roundelay of characters and scenes problematic with furniture having to be carried off and on continuously. Their old configuration using the long wall of the theatre would have given them a little more room to set up multiple smaller scenes. But they wowed with a rain shower on stage!!

The actors gave the near lyrical dialogue their all and captured the whimsy of the script for the most part. Of particular note was Peter Jeppsen with his laid-back brother who was somewhat lost and trying hard to find a purpose. Lisa Kraai was downright annoying as the older sister in her first scene, but it soon became apparent she was supposed to be annoying and trying to motivate her brother. Scottie, the mother, played by Amy-Beth Fischoff was an ethereal character more of the next world than this one. Melanie Petry as Rhonda also got stronger as the play went along, with her scene with Beth in the Japanese garden downright touching. But they all brought strengths to the characters and the story.

But the thing that I will remember always about this script and the rendering of it was Scottie’s recollection about her mother. She was in conversation with her traveling companion and talks about how she and her sister postponed their own lives to take care of their mother. “Oh, the great things we could have done, but we needed to ‘be there for mother’ . . . even though Mom didn’t want or need the help. Scottie had realized later that she used her mom to avoid risking a real life. She made up for it later in life but now adamantly refuses to do that to her children. “I am likely my children’s worst nightmare.  But I refuse to be their best excuse.” It makes me very grateful that my own children never felt the need to “help” me and went out into the world and made their own goals come true.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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