By Diana SaengerHistory and human drama are the focus of playwright Lionel Goldstein’s “Mandate Memories,” making its world premiere at the North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT) in Solana Beach. David Ellenstein, Artistic Director of NCRT, directed what’s called a two-hander — just two actors play the show.
Apollo Dukakis takes on the role of Gustav Frolich, an 80-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor, who in his youth was a Jewish Freedom Fighter. He has come to England from Israel to call on Jane Stirling, played by Rosina Reynolds. Gustav informs Jane he has something to share with her. She is not too receptive to him since the father she never knew was killed by Jewish terrorists during the days of the British Mandate for Palestine.
Dukakis and his sister, actor Olympia Dukakis, share a long history in theater. She started a little before Apollo. They lived in Massachusetts, and when she went to New York, he followed a few years later.
“This was before regional theaters had come about; there was just Broadway,” Dukakis said. “Eventually, in the 1960s, that changed and we started a theater in New Jersey that lasted 19 years. I would direct her, or she would direct me, or we would act together.”
In addition to performing with Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Mass. as Gonzalo in “The Tempest” and the Chaplain in “Mother Courage” (both opposite his sister), Dukakis is a co-founder and was Associate Artistic Director, actor, and teacher with the Tony-nominated Whole Theater of New Jersey for 15 years. He’s appeared in many productions, TV shows and film, and earned L.A. Drama Critics and Ovation award nominations.
Although Dukakis was certainly interested when he received a call from Ellenstein about the role of Gustav, he was also not sure what to expect.
“As I started to read the script, I immediately became interested in the events of the play, its history and background,” he said. “Learning about the characters and what they had gone through, and what they wanted from each other, was very moving. I knew I wanted to do it even though it has more dialogue than any play I’d ever done.”
Dukakis said he was very impressed with his costar, Reynolds, who has performed in or directed more than 30 productions in San Diego. She is also founding artistic Director of the Chequamegon Children’s Theatre in northern Wisconsin.
“Jane is a polite and genteel English lady who gardens, and when this elderly Jewish man comes to stay for a while in a very gregarious house, it’s a clash of two temperaments and cultures,” Dukakis said. “I just love Rosina, who is outspoken and feisty and she portrays Jane exceptionally well, especially when Jane is backed against the wall.”
The conflicts are provocative, but there is also some humor. In addition to an entertaining evening, Dukakis believes those leaving the theater will reflect on, “The human drama between two people who are total opposites but who find a common understanding and acceptance.”
If you go:“Mandate Memories” is on stage at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, April 9-May 4. Tickets start at $37, (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org