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THEATER REVIEW: “Mandate Memories”

Sixty-something British divorcee Jane Stirling (Rosina Reynolds) is rousted from her morning gardening by a knock on the door. It’s an elderly stranger named Gustav Frolich (Apollo Dukakis), who has earlier written to say he has something to give Jane.

But first he wants to talk about World War II, the British mandate that created the Israeli state and Jane’s father.

The old gentleman is maddeningly enigmatic – not to mention nosy, inspecting the photos on the wall and looking at the books on her shelves – and Jane becomes increasingly suspicious and annoyed when repeated requests to hand over the goods are met with delaying tactics.

The first act takes a while to settle in dramatically, as Frolich engages her in a lengthy debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict (she feels the Palestinians have as much right to a homeland as the Jews) before disclosing that his visit is about her birth father (who went off to war before she was born, never to return).

While instructive, this first act comes across as a bit pedantic and could use some trimming.

The real meat of the play is in the second act, when Frolich finally explains how he met Jane’s father and gives her what he brought. I can’t say more without giving too much away, but it’s worth the wait.

David Ellenstein (who worked with Goldstein previously on his “Halpern and Johnson”) directs this world premiere with a sure hand, and these two consummate actors do the rest.

Reynolds, a local favorite as both actor and director, is exactly right, using gestures and expressions as effectively as words.

Dukakis convinces as the victim scarred by war and injustice, yet driven by his sense of right.

Though “Mandate Memories” might be better as a one-act, it stands as an affecting combination of human and political theater.

The details

“Mandate Memories” plays through May 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.