Thursday, November 16, 2017


Jennifer Vega stars as Amy in “Gibraltar,” presented by the UC Davis department of theater and dance.
The show continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Nicholas Yoon/UC Davis/Courtesy photo

UCD’s historic Wyatt Pavilion is the location for a powerful play by Octavio Solis, directed by Kent Nicholson. “Gibraltar” explores the subject of grief and how we deal with it.

The first thing to notice on entering the theater is the attractive set, designed by John Iacovelli. The play is set in a San Francisco apartment — and as a San Francisco native, I appreciated the bay window with a window seat, something so ubiquitous in the city. (The design of the bay window is helped by the configuration of the pavilion stage.)

Artist Amy (Jennifer Vega) has just lost her husband, who drowned in San Francisco Bay, and her world is falling apart. She stands in her apartment with the enigmatic Palo (Benjamin Calleros), who is searching for his runaway wife.

The pair share stories about other couples’ troubled relationships that are played out in the dreamlike landscape of memory — an improbable reunion of an artist and a dock worker, the breakup of a policeman and his angry wife, a marriage irrevocably altered but not ended by Alzheimer’s disease. Each one has some connection to Amy’s past memory.

As they tell their stories, Amy and Palo struggle to confront their own losses.

But is Palo really who he claims to be? Director Nicholson, at the talk-back following the show, referred to the concept of the duende, a mythical creature from folklore, who frequently inhabits a house to either help or torment its inhabitants. Does Palo represent the duende sent to guide Amy through this rough time?

The supporting cast — Brandon Thomas, Victoria Casas, Anthony Castillon, Aubrey Schoeman, Charles Lavaroni and Heidi Masem — each gives a strong portrayal, with Thomas and Casas sadly tragic as the husband dealing with his wife’s Alzheimer’s.

“Octavio’s work represents the great cultural diversity of the Bay Area and the country,” Nicholson said. “By exploring the universality of love and death through multiple stories, and weaving them through a single narrative, ‘Gibraltar’ creates a new landscape for storytelling.”

There will be a talk-back following the Thursday performance.

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