Let’s REVIEW: Three fine actors face a ‘Groundswell’ at The Old Globe
By Diana Saenger
Patrons taking their seats in The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre for “Groundswell” see a seaside lodge in South Africa on the stage before them. The sounds of continuous crashing waves and an occasional sea-bell clang set the mood for the nautical tale. The boding scene soon becomes the backdrop for a psychological thriller that builds to a powerful conclusion that will change the lives of three men.
Owiso Odera portrays Thami, a South African still reeling from the Apartheid aftermath. As he pens a letter to his wife (back in the city and caring for the couple’s children) Thami reveals an ocean of heartfelt regret that he’s away from his family. He vows to work hard and be with them again soon.
Local diver and Thami’s good friend, Johan (Antony Hagopian) enters the dining room and makes small talk with Thami about his dreams and how far he’s willing to go to make them come true. The conversation turns to the car in the parking lot that belongs to a lodge guest.
At first Johan questions his friend about what he knows of Mr. Smith (Ned Schmidtke). But as the conversation turns serious, Thami learns that Johan knows everything about Mr. Smith because he broke into his car.
Johan and Thami are hoping to take advantage of a government offer to purchase a commission, a small piece of land that might hold hidden diamonds. Johan asserts they should approach Mr. Smith over dinner to become a third partner with them. Smith will put up the money, and the two of them will put up the sweat equity. Thami is onboard as long as Johan (an alcoholic) agrees not to drink or let Mr. Smith know he’s a former police office who served jail time for murder.
When Mr. Smith arrives for dinner, the scene becomes a three-ring circus as playwright Ian Bruce turns each character inside out. Johan, gulping drink after drink behind Thami’s back, becomes unruly. He threatens Mr. Smith if he won’t pay redemption for having a good life. Hagopian (as Johan) plays the perfect villain, eliciting sympathy for his plight before revealing his true self.
Thami, a good and moral man, attempts to rein in Johan’s threats, but is drawn in by Johan’s hypnotic tirades of “this is for us” and insinuations that he is not measuring up to being a man.
Odera (who plays Thami superbly) is a UCSD grad. We feel his agony over missing his family, we flinch when he does after an inappropriate action by Johan, and just maybe we understand how he’s easily swayed to the dark side.
Schmidtke steers Mr. Smith along a gentle slope of revelation. At first he’s patient as he listens to the men’s business deal, but then he tells them it is probably a scam and negotiations get ugly when Johan pulls out a long knife.
As bells from the buoys in the foggy sea ring out warnings to approaching boats, the situation inside the lodge becomes far more threatening.
If you go
Where: The Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
When: Evenings and matinees through April 17
Phone: (619) 23-GLOBE
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