Volume II, Issue II Summer 2003

Learning to love themselves

Review by Jim Trageser

Eden Lane
Written by Tom Donaghy
Directed by Des McAnuff

La Jolla Playhouse
Mandell Weiss Theatre
University of California, San Diego campus
Through September 14


“Eden Lane" is almost a bookend to the La Jolla Playhouse's most recent production, "The Country." Both plays are about families that have moved out of the city in order to re-start their lives, and both are structured so that details of their struggles and challenges emerge only slowly.

But "Eden Lane" – now in its world premiere at the Playhouse – is a much more intereseting work, if only because it's characters actually learn about themselves throughout the play.

May and her second husband, Philip, have moved from New York City with her late-teen, early-20s daughter Ruby. May's gay best friend, Timothy, fresh off a traumatic breakup, is also staying with them. As the play opens, a local interior designer, Alberta, is showing them her plans for the house – and explaining to May that she can't put a window between the master bedroom and the kitchen, despite May's desire.

Eden Lane

A family crisis and a nosy neighbor later, the family has made some progress in their efforts to grow closer by leaving the city. Most importantly, each of the characters learns to love themself just a bit more – to accept their own imperfections.

This isn't a perfect play. The whole metaphor of the window that Alberta won't install is pushed too hard into the story. And the characters are often as predictable as that forced metaphor.

Still, the characters do grow, giving the audience a peg on which to hang their hearts. And François Giroday gives himself over to the character of the martini-loving Philip with the same utter abandon as he brought to "Wintertime" at the Playhouse last year. It's not every middle-aged man who can make baring his bearish belly charming – but Giroday is turning the naked ample male midriff into a regular treat in San Diego.

Finally, the set by John Arnone is stunningly elegant, and the lighting (Howard Binkley) and sound (Robbin E. Broad) combine to create a lush out-in-the country feel to the set.

Jim Trageser is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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