By M.G. Perez
The question of heaven and whether it exists is the starting point. OnStage Playhouse, billed as the only live theatrical stage in the South Bay, launches the new year with a warm and funny play about faith. “Going to a Place Where You Already Are” is written by Bekah Brunstetter. She is most widely known as a writer-producer for the sentimental hit NBC television show “This Is Us.” San Diego audiences have also seen her work in the 2018 La Jolla Playhouse production of “The Cake” which follows a religious conservative baker and her refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.
In “Going to a Place Where You Already Are,” Brunstetter also uses coupling with characters in love and in conflict with their beliefs. “She does a really good job of a balanced portrayal of different points of view. She’s really good at that,” says Hannah Logan, director of the Onstage Playhouse production opening Friday. Logan, herself, is a well-known theatrical force in the San Diego theatre community having presented her work at venues including the La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre and Diversionary Theatre. “She (Brunstetter) doesn’t tell you what to think. She lays out the scene with brilliantly crafted dialogue and lets the audience decide … that’s really great in any kind of art particularly theater,” Logan continues. In this play, the story includes two couples in their own worlds. An older married couple, Roberta and Joe, attending a funeral. Cut to a scene somewhere else and we meet a young woman named Ellie and her overnight lover Jonas.
An enigmatic Angel is intertwined in both stories played by local veteran performer Patrick Mayuyu. We soon learn the Angel is out and proud. Mayuyu describes the moment, “Roberta asks if he’s been in love. He admits it’s a ‘he’ and not a ‘she’ that he’s in love with.” With that, the playwright uses this character to nudge humans in the right direction as they face their adversities. “Hannah has really given me permission to play with the idea that the Angel is wise and loving, but also curious, joyful and playful.”
OnStage Playhouse is an intimate 66 seat performance space that allows the audience to feel a direct connection with actors performing just a few feet from them. James P. Darvas has taken the helm as Artistic Director with an intention to grow the theater and increase the voice of artists. Darvas insists, “throughout history, different groups of people were told to keep quiet. I disagree with that. I want to hear them yell at the top of their lungs with what’s going on in their lives, their experiences, and once we listen to that we generally can understand we are all fighting for the same thing. It can open up a dialogue.” Later in the ambitious OSP Season, Darvas will take on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “I Am My Own Wife” by Doug Wright based on conversations with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. He has performed the one-person show before that tells the story of the East German transgender antique dealer who lives openly for years despite the threats of oncoming Nazi and Communist regimes.
‘Going to a Place Where You Already Are’
By Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Hannah Logan
Jan. 17-Feb. 16
291 Third Avenue, Chula Vista
“Going to a Place Where You Already Are” features JODY CATLIN as Roberta; MIGUEL GONGORA as Jonas; RICHARD RIVERA as Joe; HEATHER WARREN as Ellie; and PATRICK MAYUYU as the Angel. Tickets are available at onstageplayhouse.org or through the box office at 619-422-7787. A pay-what-you-can performance is scheduled for Thursday Jan. 23. No reservations. First come first serve for tickets. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. curtain.