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Theater Review: "The Blameless"

The cast of the world premiere of The Blameless, by Nick Gandiello.
Photo credit:
Jim Cox

The unspeakable violent tragedy that took college student Jesse Garcia’s life still casts a pall over the family, the colorful kitchen photo banner of the family together now a constant testament to the loss and ache that will never heal completely.

Today, mother Diana (Antoinette LaVecchia) is arguing with 17-year-old daughter Theresa (Nataysha Rey) about being caught in a silly indiscretion involving Theresa, her boyfriend Howard (Amara James Aja) and the school’s prop closet.

But Diana also has other things on her mind. It has been a year, and soon dad Alex (Frank Pando) and Theresa’s aunt Amanda (Liza Colón-Zayas) will arrive for a momentous dinner with entertainment lawyer Drew (Stephen Barker Turner), who also lost his son on that awful day.

Nick Gandiello’s “The Blameless” is in its world premiere through March 26 at The Old Globe’s White Theatre, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch.

Theresa, annoyed that she is treated like “a result” of the tragedy rather than a normal person, is nevertheless luckier than the rest of the family: she has Howard as an everyday reminder of the normalcy the rest of them lack.

This is a difficult topic just to write about.

Imagine inviting the perpetrator’s father to dinner. What do you say?

What do you serve? Can a meaningful human connection be made? And ultimately: How can this kind of grief be survived?

The Garcias are hoping Drew will have some answers.

Of course, there are no answers, only raw emotion and pain to be shared along with the picadillo and wine. Awkward attempts at conversation turn to embarrassing questions like Theresa’s bald “Why did you come here?” 

Amanda’s accusatory questions (she is as yet unable to get beyond the anger stage) make the dinner even more uncomfortable – and give the character the whiff of a plot device, as she argues with Drew’s choice of artists to represent (mostly hip-hoppers) and cross-examines him in an apparent attempt to make him somehow responsible for his son’s actions.

LaVecchia’s prickly but enormously sympathetic Diana is a rock, though not as solid as she’d like to be.

Pando’s Alex is a good and gentle man, but even he is given to losing his temper or just giving in to the grief.

It would be easy to hate Turner’s Drew (“the suit”) were it not for the fact that they are all forever connected by loss.

“The Blameless” gives us a heartbreaking, difficult-to-watch but above all honest portrait of one family and especially the two fathers who have each lost a son. 

Credit Upchurch’s sensitive direction and her fine cast for making the unspeakable watchable, as Gandiello asks us to consider whether it’s ever  really possible to keep on keeping on, after such a devastating event.

The details

“The Blameless” plays through March 26, 2017 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

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

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or theoldglobe.org