Coachella Valley Repertory Company (CV REP) artistic director Ron Celona is currently staging Cormac McCarthy’s powerful drama “Sunset Limited”, at the Rancho Mirage-based theatre as the final production of their highly successful second season.
Playwright McCarthy has a long list of credits: He’s written ten novels. He’s won a Pulitzer Prize. And a few years back one of his novels, “No Country for Old Men”, was turned into an Academy award-winning movie. His current allegorical play “Sunset Limited”, deftly directed by Celona and starring ML Berry as Black, and Don Oscar Smith as White, is a curious piece.
The actors are very strong in their portrayals of two men drawn together in a Harlem apartment to discuss the vagaries of life and the veracity of the hereafter. However, McCarthy’s story is surprisingly weak and somewhat repetitive considering the gravity of the subject matter. And that’s odd coming from him. He is usually very grounded in reality in his writing. This cautionary tale of confronting suicide and faith head-on, is talky, but it comes to grips with how these two men deal with the situation. Black’s (Berry) faith is what drives the story forward, while White’s (Smith) nihilism constantly puts Black to his test of faith.
Having a dialectic discourse between Black and White is a lot like having a discussion between Senator Harry Reid and Speaker John Boehner, on the merits of Budget reform and how to go about it. These two fine actors just do it, but with more courtesy and intelligence. Each scores points, depending on one’s philosophical/religious bent. Also the title of the play is a little ambiguous. It refers to when suicidal people do make a decision (at least in NYC), their favorite course of action is to “off themselves” by jumping in front of a subway car or a train engine and into the sunset and nothingness…forever… or do they? And that becomes the knotty problem for Black and White, and the audience. It’s the sort of provocative story that makes for thoughtful discussion over a cup of coffee with friends after leaving the theatre.
In the technical credits department director Celona has Scenic Designer Jimmy Cuomo provide a grungy looking Harlem apartment setting for Berry and Smith to give those philosophical arguments heft and weight. Cuomo’s Set Designs over the first two seasons have been first rate along with Stuart A. Fabel’s lighting designs, Cricket S. Meyers’ sound designs and excellent support from Karen Goodwin, stage manager extraordinaire and light/sound operator.
CV Rep’s theatre operations may be dark until next season’s opening production, but CV Rep is busy all year long. They conduct outreach programs for the schools in the Valley, as well as other theatre related events throughout the year. Their Luminary Luncheon series with celebrities and stars is very popular with their audiences and the public. For information to any of their functions call 760-296-2966 or go online at: www.cvrep.org.