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THEATER REVIEW: “Susurrus" takes playgoer on jaunt through San Diego Botanic Garden

La Jolla Playhouse embarks on a new “Without Walls” theater program with Glasgow playwright David Leddy’s “Susurrus,” a play recorded onto iPods and enjoyed while the playgoer walks through the lovely San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas.

Susurrus is a soft whispering or rustling sound. That’s easy to come by in this garden with tall trees whose leaves catch the wind, burbling brooks, and a lovely waterfall, not to mention reflecting pools and plants from around the world.

The garden also has strategically placed sculptures. My favorites are in the section dedicated to children – fanciful creations guaranteed to excite the imagination.

Leddy’s play (with its musical accompaniment) is in eight parts, to be listened to at designated points along the route where there are benches.

The story is about an imaginary opera singer named Robin Goodfellow (which probably explains the bulk of the music, from Benjamin Britten’s operatic setting of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and his children.

There is much reminiscence about life with dad; at one point son Moth (Paul Thomas Hickey) hints at an unnatural relationship with dad.

Adopted daughter Helena (Wendy Seager) seems to have a chip on her shoulder, complaining that dad ignored her.

Former diva The Singer (Karen Ramsey) tells the gossipy if sordid story of Robin’s rise and fall from grace. A fourth character, The Researcher (Stewart Ennis) talks rather enigmatically about the science of sparrows and trees.

The music is lovely, but the dark plot is so at odds with the environment that I found myself wanting to skip the play and get to the music, which also includes welcome tracks by Piaf and Bjork.

I like this idea, and though I don’t think it’s entirely successful, my advice is to go, especially if you’ve never been to this local botanical treasure, and drink in its loveliness. You can save for later the consideration of the sorry mess we humans make of our lives.

The details

“Susurrus” plays through Oct. 2 at San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas.

Thursday through Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm. (Patrons admitted in small groups at 15-minute intervals.)

For tickets call (858) 550-1010 or visit HERE.

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