by Terrance Mc Arthur
Do you know what “serendipity” is? The word was coined from a Persian folktale, The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes succeed by luck and accident. It’s those little instants when things in the universe fall into place. Synchronicity. Chance. Happenstance.
What if it doesn’t work, those cosmic connections are missed, and the magical moment falls flat? Steven Dietz explored these karmic failures in This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity, playing at the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre through August 8.
Scottie (Amelia Ryan) has two children, Tim (Joseph Ham) and Beth (Jessica Rose Knotts). Scottie’s caretaker, Bernadette (Laura Dodds), has a sister Rhonda (Kylee Leyva) who works in a funeral home. Twelve years ago, Tim had a girlfriend, Claire (Marikah Christine Leal), who is involved with Gary (Ted Nunes). That’s how things are at the start, but this fragile house of cards moves through a series of two-person scenes where characters meet, interact, and fail to find out how they are actually interconnected. They come THIS () close.
Ryan can be imperious, but Scottie lets her show a softer side, a complement to a strong character. She hides her adventurousness from her children, but sallies forth into life.
Ham is a fine actor, but he shines as a reactor. A silly prank of a life-procrastinating nerd has unforeseen results, placing him in a situation where nobody believes he is who or what he is. His responses are varied and fascinating to watch.
Knotts is tall and forceful as the daughter who wants to do more than the mother she sees as sliding into quiet age. She gallops across the world, bouncing off other characters with acerbic barbs that finally grow into searching questions of identity.
Dodds is a guilt-ridden cross between Scooby-Doo’s Velma and Auntie Mame’s Agnes Gooch, trudging dutifully along.
Leyva is spunky, and Rhonda seems to take every task she undertakes to be the most important job in the world.
Leal does an amazing job of bringing to life her character’s troubled emotions–the chronic depression, the anger—she shows it all.
Nunes is a foil in several strong female-oriented scenes, but his solid power keeps him a vital part of the conversations. Nunes also composed incidental music for the show, and collaborated with Dan Pessano, the director, who supplied lyrics for a song, which manages to be wistful, melancholy, and hopeful.
There is also a surprise cameo appearance in the play, but it would spoil things if I talked about it.
The play is surprisingly short (You wonder how so many things could happen so quickly), and Pessano acts as ringmaster to a talk-back session after the show ends, with the audience asking questions of the cast.
Dietz has written many plays proven popular in regional theatres. GCP staged his Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure in 2020. This 2016 script was Dietz’s first foray into existential absurdism. This is one of those plays you need to see with someone who likes to discuss meanings and motivations. Then, you should go and see it again, so you can see all the ways the things that fail to fit together, really do fit.
This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity is on stage at the 2nd Space Theatre at 928 E. Olive Ave. in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.