Onstage Playhouse Presents the San Diego Premiere of REST

A Story that Explores Life in a Retirement Home.

Darkly Poetic and Beautiful in its Own Way. 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Anna Sandor and Nick Young in Rest
Theatre is entertainment, storytelling, and also a medium of information sometimes to point out a reality. American playwright Samuel D. Hunter did just that with his play Rest written not even 10 years ago in 2014. The piece had its San Diego premiere at Onstage Plauyhouse in Chula Vista.

The story takes place in a retirement home in Idaho that will shut down soon and has three residents to relocate. Etta (Anna Sandor), Gerald (Nick Young), and Tom (Tom Kilroy). Etta and Gerald are a couple. Gerald is a former music teacher and struggles with dementia. Etta is quick and witty and has been taking care of her husband, even moving to the facility to continue to do so. A blizzard blocks the entrances to the home and Gerald goes missing. The few staff members left will have to share the space with the residents until the weather settles. There are two nurses, Ginny (Talia Sade) and Faye (Nicki Barnes), Ken (Marcel Ferrin) a temp cook who will be there for just three days, and the chief of the place Jeremy (Tom Steward). Ginny and Faye are also best friends who went to school together. Faye is pregnant and in an unselfish, loving deed will give the baby to Ginny and her husband who are unable to have children due to Ginny's struggle with cancer.  Jeremy was apparently a fluke hire and does not know what to do with himself and Gerald being missing. Tension arises as the space becomes smaller and each character brings out their anxieties, insecurities, and fears. Etta comes forward and reveals where Gerald is and the group makes a decision to protect her. 

The context and subject matter initially of Rest, are sad but as the play unfolds, audiences get to see the different layers of health workers and their personal struggles, a young kid starting out and seeking religion as an escape, a man out of place with a midlife crisis and three senior citizens who have lived and loved. There are different perspectives that will make you think and reflect on the older people around you, their destiny, and what yours will look like eventually. I mean, we are all headed there no matter what. Onstage Artistic Director James P. Darvas has an eye for these types of plays and knows how to direct them as well. Plays with a heavy human element that linger way after you leave the theatre.

Tom Steward, Talia Sade and Marcel Ferrin in Rest

The cast as an ensemble is great. I appreciated all of the interpretations greatly but for me, Anna Sandor and Tom Kilroy definitely take the story cake. Sandor as Etta is so tender yet, incredibly tense, stressed. You can feel the heaviness while watching her. Tom as the supposedly totally deaf elder is funny and witty but also, there is a sadness to him. He's a retired nightguard and he did it for over 30 years reason why he suffers from insomnia. The nurses are always underestimating him assuming he does not hear. Talia Sade and Nicki Barnes as the nurses Ginny and Faye both are raw, sharing tough emotions like fear and the frustration when not being in control of your future which, is sort of a dicotomy/metaphor with their older counterparts. I found it to be darkly poetic even. Combined with Tom Steward's Jeremy who has no idea how to handle contingencies or crisis but still pulls through and decides to maybe go into architecture after the center closes. Marcel Ferrin's interpretation of the young temporary cook Ken is also tender and really gives the audience that sense of being lost and searching to find your place all with a good heart.

Nicki Barnes and Anna Sandor in Rest

Patrick Mason's set design is spot on from the pinkish color of the retirement home to  the sliding doors having their own agenda, and the common area with the TV. Even a ramp that audiences do not see but do get to hear with people going up and down. I love those things. The doors also play a role in that dark poem I mentioned. This is not a give you the fuzzies play, but it definitely is a lovely one in its own way.

I invite you to check it out and draft your own conclusions. Hurry because it closes this Sunday, September 18. For ticket prices and performance times, please click here. 

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