Moxie presents a dandy Depression-era story
By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO — So much wonderful theatre to see this month that it’s difficult recommending one above the other. In one of San Diego’s little treasures, Moxie Theatre Company, tucked away in a strip mall shopping center in the East County, Naomi Wallace’s 1999 The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek is being given a top-notch airing.
The title of her play is somewhat puzzling; I’ll admit, but don’t let that keep you away because the story is so captivating and the acting so easy and realistic that you will want to see more of Wallace’s work especially under Turner Sonnenberg’s well crafted direction. Poet turned playwright, Wallace hails from Prospect, Kentucky, and her writing is both lyrical and poignant. And yes, the trestle it’s a real place as is Pope Lick Creek
Her story takes place in and around Pope Lick Creek and beneath the railway trestle in the area of Louisville, Kentucky, that artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg brings to life with the help of set designer Rogelio Rosales and lighting designer Luke Olson. In her capable hands each and every of Wallace’s characters come to life and speaks to us as they if they lived it. Oft times it is sympathetic but always with honesty. Their hopelessness and depression is as real and touching as we will see anywhere.
In Appalachia it’s the year of the Great Depression. 1936, and two young and aimless high school kids Pace Creagan (Amanda Osborn) and Dalton Chance (Ryan Kidd) enter into a dangerous dance of chicken by planning to run the trestle set 100 feet above a dry creek bed and with no sides … before the oncoming freight train speeds over the Pope Lick Creek. If they succeed according to Pace, who is obsessed about trains, the payoff is at least one victory in pushing back at their Depression-plagued valley and really, what else is there to do?
In the beginning she persuades Dalton to run with her so they can watch each other and be witness to their own achievements. For Pace it’s an unfulfilled challenge she failed to make a few years before. So she dares Dalton to do it with her. After explaining that if one or the other doesn’t make it he/she ends up cut in half by the force of the 153-ton beast that they are trying to out run. Dalton is not convinced and we later learn that Pace did not make it. Reportedly, two teenaged boys died in 1987 and another in 2000 while on the trestle.
Wallace’s story is told in flashback where we meet up with the young and vulnerable Dalton who is making silhouettes of animals with his hands on the walls of a prison cell. He is being accused for Pace’s death. From there the story goes back and fourth between the prison cell and under the trestle. It is here also here we meet up with Dalton’s memories or the ghost of Pace, a tomboy ready for some kind of sex play that doesn’t actually involve touching.
In fact most of the characters in Wallace’s play, especially Gin (Michelle Brooks). Dalton’s mother, and Dray (John Polak) his dad, have stopped touching each other since Dray lost his job at the foundry due to an unspoken accident. It’s not because Gin doesn’t yearn and long for their sometimes wild past lovemaking, it’s because Dray feels worthless and dead inside that he can’t touch her.
Furthermore he is afraid he might hurt her if he does touch her because of his pent up anger. One of the most heartbreaking revelations he makes is when he confesses that he also fears leaving the house because he will be invisible, no one will see him … so he stays home and makes shadows on the wall with his back to us.
When he does speak to Gin they have a weird way of communicating by throwing dinner plates back and forth to each other. Occasionally one will drop and break suggesting that their relationship is that fragile. It is painful to watch. But then again, so were the times.
Polak is great at communicating his feeling with his facial expressions, straight as an arrow posture and towering appearance. Even the blank look in his eyes and his every now and then pushing Gin’s hands away from his body and from touching him speak volumes.
On the other hand Brooks’ Gin tries to keep a stiff upper lip. She finds work painting dishes at the local glass factory only to discover that new and toxic chemicals that are in the paint permanently stain her hands blue.
Michelle Brooks’ Gin, looking too young to have a 15 year old son yet wearing the grim look of someone who wants to keep the fire of her youth alive but too worn out to push to hard, is wonderfully effective.
But this is the coming of age story about two teenagers whose only recreation in life seems to be in planning to outrun the 7:10 train that’s barreling down on them on some level, and their coming to grips with their own sexuality. It is at a time in their lives where they are strictly on their own to figure it out, and in some odd way they did. In a scene, that pretty much wraps up the mystery of what happened to Pace, the two are having sex without ever touching and you could hear a pin drop.
Ryan Kidd, making his Moxie début is a face we hope to see more of. Both he and Amanda Osborn made sparks fly in their own out of this world way as they danced their little odd love making dance away.
Amanda Osborn, a student at San Diego State working at a double major in theatre performance and history (She already has her AA in Drama) is a bit peculiar as the woman/girl Pace. She has the look and mannerisms down perfectly as the tomboy she presents herself to be. It’s quite an accomplishment for this young actor and she pulls it off splendidly.
Jack Missett is the town jailor who spends a bit of time with Dalton in his cell hoping to get a few answers about Pace’s death out of him. His son, unfortunately, was one of those to die on the trestle. In his own inimitable way, Missett is solid as the eccentric guard who sees nothing wrong with peeling an apple and letting the skin fall on Dalton’s head as he rambles on without end.
The ‘Moxie’s’ (The gals at Moxie) have named their eighth season “Home of the Brave” in an effort to highlight provocative American plays. They can put an exclamation mark and an Amen at the end of Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek. It deserves that much and more.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Oct. 28th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Production Type: Drama
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Ste. N. San Diego, CA 92115
Ticket Prices: start at $25.00
Davis is a San Diego based theatre critic. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=31745