North Coast Repertory's West Coast Premiere of The Outgoing Tide Shows the Other Side of the Coin when Losing a Loved One to Alzheimer's

Currently Playing Until July 3 A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Andrew Barnicle & Leo Marks - photo by Aaron Rumley
June is bringing theatre pieces to San Diego directed by women and I am totally here for it as there needs to be more space for women directors. North Coast Repertory Theatre's latest production and West Coast premiere of  The Ongoing Tide by American writer Bruce Graham involves a very sensitive topic regarding Alzheimer's as well as what it would look like to take the reins and go with dignity while still having some sort of grip on one's life.

Gunner (Andrew Barnicle) and Peg (Linda Gehringer) have been married for over 40 years. They live in a cottage in the Chesapeake Bay and have a son named Jack (Leo Marks). Very centric on the baby boomer generation, the piece goes back and forth between the past and present time when Gunner and Peg met as teens, got pregnant, and then married which back in the day was frowned upon. Gunner has macho/ignorant tendencies -very typical for the generation and the times- and because Jack likes to spend time with his mom in the kitchen and is not that good at throwing and catching a ball, he gets worried...Jack grows up to be a frustrated but excellent chef.  And, because of his dad's "concerns," he too was somewhat a teen newlywed, had three kids, and is about to get a divorce. Gunner's mind is starting to go and he is well aware. Peg has been looking into a care facility where she can live with Gunner and have him taken care of when things get worse. She wants Jack to be on board but after seeing the medical ward he is hesitating. Gunner will have no part in it and wants to stay home. 

The thing about Graham's play is that it shows the struggle a family goes through both emotionally and in everyday practice when a loved one starts losing independence. Something we have seen in many plays but here, he also shows the loved one's perspective while being painfully conscious about the situation and what is to come. Gunner who is an avid fisher and loves going out on his boat takes the decision to end his life and make it seem like an accident in order to leave the insurance to his wife and son. Peg and Jack refuse. Especially Peg who is not willing to let go. 

Linda Gehringer and Leo Marks - photo by Aaron Rumley

Marty Burnett's gorgeous set design brings the cottage and the outside where Gunner fishes, into perspective giving the actors both rhythm and momentum to develop the story under Nike Doukas's tender direction where all three actors shine through. Andrew Barnicle is spot on as Gunner who is not just this character in a play. I am sure many have a Gunner as a father, it is like a semi-universal family figure. Barnicle combines the dark humor of the character along with his now fragile humanity masterfully. All the cast is amazing but Andrew is the one that takes the cake on this one. Linda Gehringer and Leo Marks as mentioned, are amazing. Linda -who absolutely rocks Elisa Benzoni's costume design- also combines dark humor and some pertinent adlibbing (at least in the performance I saw) playfully with Marks who prints strong sensitivity into his character up to the point where audience members are crying along with him. This is a powerful, universal story showing the perspective of how it feels to be fading away and taking control also bringing food for thought in these sensitive and common situations. North Coast Repertory's production gave it a wonderful home.

Currently playing until July 3. For ticket prices and performance times please click HERE.

COVID 19 Policy: North Coast Repertory Theatre will not require patrons to provide proof of vaccination or to wear masks while attending shows or events.  They strongly recommend mask-wearing and urge patrons to be vaccinated. 

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