In Steven Dietz's play "This Random World," the plot brings to mind the 2006 Oscar Best Picture winning movie "Crash," where writer Paul Haggis lays out people's different storylines then connects all the characters. While they live in one of the biggest cities in the U.S., Los Angeles, their lives become inexplicably intertwined in all kinds of ways.
That's much of what happens in "This Random World," now on stage at Main Street Playhouse.
Tim Ward (Robert Fritz) and his older sister, Beth Ward (Melissa Almaguer) have separate lives and very different personalities; he's in his late 20s, lives in a small apartment, and has just lost his job and broken up with his girlfriend. Beth, in her late 30s, is already constructing her obituary, just in case something happens to her; especially because she's planning her dream trip to Nepal. She's adventure seeking unlike her brother who prefers to stay at home and noodle around on his computer.
There's Scottie (Fern Katz), the kids' elderly mother, who has moved out of her home, and into an assisted living facility. She's not adventurous either, or so Beth thinks. Turns out Scottie's been using her retirement money to travel the world, taking along her companion aide Bernadette (Rita Joe). But Bernadette doesn't want to go with Scottie on her latest adventure to a shrine in Japan.
She asks that her sister, Rhonda (Brianna Hart-Cox) be able to go in her place. Rhonda, meanwhile, works in a funeral home. Tim shows up after a mix up over an obituary printed online, and the two meet. Meanwhile, Tim's high school girlfriend, Claire (Laura Marrero), is on the verge of breaking up with her current boyfriend, Gary (Zack Myers). Gary is getting ready for a trip to, as fate would have it, Nepal, where he runs into Tim's sister, Beth. There's also a guy (the cameo gets no program credit) who shows up towards the end of the play briefly; he's passed away, but continues to search for his own meaning in life, which was apparently kept going by keeping busy.
So this is how playwright Dietz's characters intersect in his random world.
The Main Street Players actors have no problem diving into the seven roles, bringing each one of the very emotional characters a reason for existing. Or, in some cases, not existing.
Director Robert Coppel finds ways to keep the confusion of who is where, when, and why to a minimum. Dietz's script itself can lead to you questioning, "Wait! Who was where when?"
But there are scene changes that undermine the continuity. Because of blackouts in between scenes for set changes, we are taken out of the characters' worlds, and then are thrust back into it when the lights go up. If only there were less jarring transitions, this random world would feel more like the real world.
Still, it's a talented group at MSP. Fritz's Tim is, as one audience member said aloud during the performance, "just adorable," and he is. His character is likeable, yet seems utterly lost in the world, at least right now. Almaguer as Beth is bubbly and self involved, and has the best scene in the show with her comic cohort Myers as Gary. And, Myers, well, he's a keeper. He's got great comic timing. His Gary is adorable in a different way; like a man-child teddy bear.
Katz is the feisty octogenarian who knows her days are numbered; Marreo's Claire is a jittery ball of emotions, depressed and possibly suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Joe's Bernadette sheds some real tears, and Hart-Cox as Rhonda plays the opposite as the easy going, everything-rolls-of-her-back sister.
The playhouse on Main Street allows for the necessary intimacy required for audiences to escape into "This Random World." At least we can escape this random world, if only for 90 minutes.
"This Random World" runs through May 6 at Main Street Players’ theater, 6766 Main St. in Miami Lakes. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays as well as 2 p.m. Sundays. Ticket prices are $30 for adults and $25 for students and seniors. For tickets, visit www.mainstreetplayers.com or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.