Onstage Playhouse Artistic Director James P. Darvas Returns to the Stage in

Lonely Planet. A Tough but Metaphoric Play About Friendship and Facing Hardship 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

James P. Darvas and Salomon Maya. Photo by Daren Scott 
Chula Vista's Onstage Playhouse is back with the production of Lonely Planet by American playwright Steven Dietz, one of the most prolific and widely produced playwrights in the U.S. and who is working on a movie directed by Meg Ryan

Lonely Planet is a two-actor play with a story that develops in a map store, Jody's maps. Jody (James P. Darvas) loves the symbolic representation of land, sea, and distances...he knows which one is more accurate than the next. His friend Carl (Salomon Maya) walks into the store with great energy and cheer. Jody is focused, Carl wants to be. They have to play their game Jody says, which entails a description of Carl's profession for the day. Each day a different one. Carl also comes in every time with a chair. One that has been left without its owner and he cannot bear it. 

Dietz wrote this play in the early nineties in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. Each chair symbolizes a life lost to the disease and the fear of who is next. Jody has not left his store and needs to get tested to which Carl urges him and Jody finally takes a week-long break to do so and coexist with the outside world. As the test comes back negative, Carl's chair appears in the store sending a chill down everyone's spine and yet, with a tough but strong message that life goes on and you have to make the most of what you got.

James and Salomon have great stage rapport that goes up and down like a rollercoaster with its surprise loops. Both roles are definitely not easy to play and Darvas delivers a full-throttle feeling taking audiences through the anxiety along with him. Maya adds contrast to that in different intervals that go from ecstatic to observant and painfully aware.

Salomon Maya. Photo by Daren Scott

Patrick Mason's set design of Jody's maps is meticulously detailed from the theatre entrance all the way to the stage exit which makes the space look amp and roomy.  A screen plays clips of Live Aid 1985 including excerpts of Tina and Mick Jagger and Queen... one of the characters also wears t-shirts that allude to this. Kevin “Blax” Burroughs’ lighting design is excellent at accentuating different moments so creatively, like highlighting the different maps with varied tones as Jody is sharing his thoughts on each of the creators. The attention to detail as a chair appears also adds to the goosebumps the actors are already giving. All these elements come together harmoniously thanks to Teri Brown, former Artistic Director at OnStage Playhouse who cameod to direct the piece. 

Lonely Planet invites you to reflect upon the cards that have been dealt and what is there to do about it with a dose of empathy and grace.

This play is donation based starting at $10 dollars, pay-what-you-can at the door to support the theater's ongoing fundraising campaigns. Currently playing until July 16th with a special performance on Monday, July 3rd at 8:00 p.m. For more information please click here

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