Review: “Apologia” in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa’s Roustabout Theater is best known as one of the leading theatrical training and performance programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a focus on youth ages 11 to 20, their Apprentice Program and Summer Theater Camp productions lean toward lighter fare, like this summer’s scheduled production of The SpongeBob Musical.

Roustabout also has a Professional Ensemble component consisting of program staff, graduates and guest artists and once a year or so put up a more “mature” production. Previous works include Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Noël Coward’s Hay Fever.

With their scheduled production of Mary Page Marlowe jettisoned by the pandemic, Roustabout returns with Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Apologia. The Clark Lewis-directed show runs in the Carsten Cabaret in the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts through March 27.

‘Apologia’ is defined as a formal, written defense of one’s opinions or conduct. It’s also the title that renowned art historian Kristin Miller (Kate Brickley) has chosen for her autobiography. She makes clear to the family and friends gathered to celebrate her birthday at her English countryside home that it’s not be confused with an apology.

Jared N. Wright, Jessie Raskin, Kate Brickley, Ellen Rawley, Bill Davis

Her son Peter (Jared N. Wright) has come with his American girlfriend Trudi (Jessie Rankin) seeking just that or at least an explanation as to why her text is devoid of any mention of him or his brother Simon (Bohn Connor) and, more so, why she never fought for their return after being taken away by their father as children. The siblings’ erasure has sent Simon over the deep end, leaving his not-soap-opera (“It’s more of a serialized drama that follows the trajectories of various people’s lives.”) actress wife Claire (Ellen Rawley) to attend solo. They are soon joined by Kristin’s gay best friend Hugh (Bill Davis), whose purpose seems to be to utter Oscar Wilde-like bons mots. Simon eventually shows up, words are exchanged, and nothing is really resolved.

Campbell’s script delves into such well-worn issues as 60’s radicalism and idealism, religion, capitalism, patriarchies, and the sacrifices one makes in life, but there’s really nothing new here. It’s your typical dysfunctional family reunion.  The moments of humor and emotional depth only highlight the shallowness of what surrounds them. Are we really still debating whether a woman can have both a career and a family? And where’s the search for accountability for the father’s actions?

The cast is good, and Connor in particular impresses in a confrontation scene, but some still need to shake off some understandable rust.

But don’t we all?

‘Apologia’ runs through March 27 in the Carsten Cabaret at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. Fri–Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $20–$26. 707.546.3600. Proof of vaccination or a negative commercial test within 48 hours of performance required. Masking required if unvaccinated.

Photos by Tamara DeMello

This review was originally published in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.

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