By Diana Saenger
Post apartheid South Africa may seem far away from here, but the tale that unravels in “Groundswell,” which is set there, is one many Old Globe audience members may relate too quite easily. Written by Ian Bruce and director by Kyle Donnelly, the thriller follows three men who traverse a tightrope of greed and desperation in a chaotic scheme.
The cast includes Antony Hagopian (Johan), Mfundo Morrison (Thami), and Ned Schmidtke as Smith. Before rehearsals got underway, the trio was presented with background material to reacquaint them with the history, said Schmidtke who plays an investment banker. Schmidtke said the play’s setting is the far west coast of South Africa near the Namibia border where the area has been left dredged and desolate by diamond mine conglomerates.
“This is a contemporary play, kind of like (Jean-Paul) Sartre’s ‘No Exit,’ ” Schmidtke said. “In ‘Groundswell,’ you can’t change a society or erase the scars that a society or culture has inflicted upon people’s souls; and by decree it takes a long time to heal as we know in this country as well.”
Schmidtke worked with director Donnelly (“The Constant Wife,” “Dancing at Lughnasa”) years ago and has performed at the Globe in the productions of “The Pleasure of His Company,” “Sea of Tranquility,” “A Body of Water, “Blue/Orange” and “Pericles.” He has also starred in many television and film roles.
“I’m thrilled to return to Globe, it’s like coming home,” Schmidtke said. “The people here – past and present – are wonderful to work with, and so is Kyle. She’s smart, suggests rather than demands, asks questions of the actors that lead to discoveries, and is an acting teacher who trusts her actors and wants them to follow their instincts and then shapes them.”
Schmidtke knows what it takes to bring a play to the stage. He earned a B.A. in speech and theatre arts at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and received his Masters in directing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg where he went on to be a stage manager and director at the Pittsburg Playhouse for five years.
Schmidtke said he totally understands the conflict in “Groundswell.”
“These are three guys with shifting alliances and all with considerable need and the energy to suave that need,” he said. “They are literally locked-in together in this remote area because of the fog and left to thrash it out.”
With a haunting background and back-story, the psychological drama feels perfect for the intimate Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.“It all happens in an emotionally charged and dangerous environment,” Schmidtke said. “And the characters are hewn out of a culture we know about from a distance in the news – but these are living breathing corporeal people that bring the news to life.”
If you go
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
8 p.m. March 12 and 7 p.m. March 13-16. Performances: 7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday; 7 p.m. Sundays through April 17