Onstage Playhouse is Back with the San Diego Premiere of THE HARVEST

A Play that Voices Thoughts and Tackles Comfort 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Adriana Cuba, ShelbyWuitschick, Jaden Guerrero, Marcel Ferrin. Photo Daren Scott

I recently saw a Mexican content creator that I love, do a sketch on the Virgin Mary talking to Joseph about how she got pregnant through the holy spirit, ahem, the white dove, and the comments on that reel, oh the comments... what I am getting at, is that material that makes us uncomfortable and/or makes us question things is good. It might not feel good at times, but that is different. 

Onstage Playhouse is back on the theatre scene and celebrating its 40th season with the San Diego Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's THE HARVEST. Set in a church basement in Idaho, realistically created by Set Designer Duane McGregor, the first scene comes at the audience with a group of young people praying/talking in tongues. The youth group led by Ada (Adriana Cuba) is training to do missions in the Middle East and convert Muslims...aye...touchy touchy subject... other people in the group are married couple Denise (Shelby Wuitschick) and Marcus (Geoffrey Geissinger), and childhood friends Josh (Marcel Ferrin) and Tom (Jaden Guerrero). Josh has a one-way ticket to the mission and will live outside the village and, as soon as his older sister Michaela (Emily Candia) finds out, she drives to Idaho from Eugene, Oregon where she has been living since she ran away at 16 because of addiction and an abusive father. The closer the departure date gets, the more skeletons come out of each character's closet like panic attacks, work tasks, true feelings, and most importantly, true intentions.

James P. Darvas and Marcel Ferrin. Photo Daren Scott

OSP Artistic Director James P. Darvas did a solid job directing this piece by really getting out each of the human traits of the characters, good and bad. He also plays the role of Chuck, Tom's dad, and the church's founder. And even though he shared the boards last year with Salomon Maya in Lonely Planet, I love the counted histrionic dosis he gives audiences because when Darvas hits the stage, there is no playing around. Just the simple trace of preparing a cup o' noodles gives the chills and is pretty amazing. Jason Chody's lighting pumps every scene adding suspense to the already tense moments.

The casting combo for this ensemble is a round one with the OSP debut of Shelby Wuitschick, who delivered each of Denise's layers with comedy and truth, giving stage husband Geoffrey Geissinger playing game and making their couple realistic and relatable. Emily Candia returns to the South Bay theatre and she should do it more often! I had not seen her since Drowning Girls, having a rapport with the audience and Ferrin, performing difficult, gasp-triggering, family trauma-related scenes. Another comeback is Jaden Guerrero who took a year off to pursue his music and is doing sound design for this production as well. Guerrero is sensitive and so fragile as Tom. The playwright hints at a hidden love from Tom that is played out well. And Adriana Cuba as Ada is awful in the best interpretative way because Ada is manipulative and knows her assignment masterfully. 

I like a good set of wardrobe changes during a performance and Brad Dubois's costume design gave spot-on variety, especially for the female ensemble. 

THE HARVEST reminds me of The Book of Mormon and the Shiny Happy People documentary where thoughts are given a voice, and abuse is confronted once recognized. This play is a good post-theatre convo for sure.

Go compare notes for yourself. THE HARVEST is currently playing until April 14. For performance times and ticket prices please click HERE.

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