Life is random—a series of births, deaths, sorrows and sex in which we're only rarely able to glimpse a translucent thread of connection. When we do see it, for a second, we get the "big picture," and perhaps we're momentarily assured that life is not random, that there is meaning or some plan. That's for the agnostics—for the atheists, it at least shines a glorious light on happenstance.
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Stringing together a series of decidedly random events, David Greig's San Diego is surprisingly unconcerned with showing you that elusive thread. In fact, it's not elusive at all, with some stories clearly only connected because two characters are related to each other. Okay—but it's not nearly as fun, and it puts a bit of a damper on the anticipation of seeing that fateful linking. Perhaps Greig's mash-up is all about the stories then, the tidbits and life snippets we watch, like shiny baubles strung together—on a thread we're not to be concerned with. If so, then the baubles better damn well be shiny. Unfortunately, some of these just aren't interesting enough to refract even a dull light.
Instead, Grieg's melancholy drama skitters along the edge of some proclamation about life that neither seems connected to its San Diego surroundings nor to any larger idea. Rude Guerrilla's Dave Barton (who also pens reviews for this paper) tries to pump meaning into the deeds and desires of the characters—Scottish David Greig (yes, the author), who flies into San Diego only to get knifed by a Nigerian refugee who stowed away in the plane wheel lock on the same flight; as David lies bleeding to death in an alley, the pilot of said flight and Amy, his dial-a-whore date, try to save his life. This scene is jettisoned for one in which the pilot's B-movie-actor son, Andrew, finds out his wife has decided to become a nun after giving birth to their first child. The pilot's daughter, Laura, is introduced as well—as a cutter in a psych ward who, after hacking off pieces of herself, cooks them up and feeds them to her new ADHD boyfriend, David.
While a lot of what happens in San Diego is fairly implausible and over the top—a nun? Devouring your own flesh? (Which led to, of course, an "eating out" scene between Laura and David in which he does exactly that)—going big is less of a concern than the fact that we swim so shallow. Barton does his best with the material, keeping the actors moving through his typically inventive set, and there's plenty to play with here—whores, planes, cutters, ethnic strife and poverty, criminal acts by police, Paul McCartney songs, all set in the city with one of the highest standards of living and biggest egos. Still, we just couldn't shake the gnawing feeling that there must be some reason we're getting to know these particular people at this particular time in their lives. It didn't have to be a Big Idea; it didn't have to have serious revelations. But it did have to be a bit more interesting than any of a hundred random conversations we've had with strangers at airports. It wasn't. We are glad, however, that Laura finally decided to give up eating labian appetizers and opted for deli-sliced beef instead. We just wish we knew why she decided to do it now. Yom Kippur?
RUDE GUERRILLA'S PRODUCTION OF SAN DIEGO AT THE EMPIRE THEATRE, 200 N. BROADWAY, SANTA ANA, (714) 547-4688; WWW.RUDEGUERRILLA.ORG. Fri.-SAT., 8 p.m.; SUN., 2:30 p.m. (check website for special show times.) THROUGH SEPT. 21. $10-$20.