Review by Tulis McCall
Well, this is an unexpected disappointment. I used to live about four blocks from Pacific Resident Theatre, and I am used to their fine work. Julia is not up to what I remember.
We begin in 2004 in a town outside of Pittsburgh. Keith Stevenson (Steve) runs a coffee shop on its last legs and makes book on the side. A man who grew up in the neighborhood Lou Perino (Richard Fancy) comes in to the shop to sit and watch the place across the street – Murphy’s – get torn down. Lou has come all the way from Detroit. When Frank (Haskell Vaughn Anderson III) enters, he recognizes Lou from their school days together. They reminisce as old friends do and share a few laughs.
Eventually, we realize that Lou has come to town not only to see the last of Murphy’s but to make amends to his old girlfriend, Julia. Julia is Steve’s mother, and Steve is none to eager to have her life, such as it is, disrupted. Julia is in a home and living with dementia. Steve and Frank are her only visitors and are protective in the extreme. But Lou is not to be put off, and makes his intentions heartbreakingly clear. The men relent and the reunion takes place, but not before we witness an exchange that took place between Julia and Lou nearly 50 years ago. The outcome was not pretty, and this is the reason that Lou has returned.
After starting off with an excellent monologue by Mr. Stevenson , the play goes rapidly down hill. Mr. Fancy’s depiction of Lou is overwrought and unbelievable. This man appears nearly as unbalanced as the woman he has driven half way across the country to see. And as Lou is the driving force of this production, the rest ends up being off kilter in the extreme. Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Anderson do their best, and both have some terrific moments that they have carved out of the text. The rest of the cast is not as lucky.
Julia is encumbered with too many words and not enough actions. It is a tale that could have been trimmed down to a one act and given a simple stylized set. Instead it is a long two-act with a scene change that is worthy of the Purple Heart and a lighting design that is lifeless.
In a word, this production is cluttered. While the story is moving, the text does not do it justice. The path to the heart is always direct, and we as humans tend to clutter it up. As artists it is our job to keep our work clean, even when the stories we are telling are filled with the garbage of life’s journey.