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Theater review: 'Loyalties' at Pacific Resident Theatre

January 22, 2010 |  5:00 am

400.Sarah Brook Albert Meijer on couch 5x4 low res(2) San Diego, 2005: Longtime friends share an evening of cocktails and pleasantries. But in “Loyalties,” Tony Pasqualini’s heated drama at Pacific Resident Theatre, there’s a herd of elephants in the room everyone wants to ignore. Since the death of their son Donny in Iraq, Joy (Robin Becker) has joined a right-wing support group, while jocular husband Frank (Michael Rothhaar) carries explosives in his bowling bag. Meanwhile, pediatrician Andrew (Pasqualini) and Mel (Sarah Brooke) hide the truth about their own son, Michael (Albert Meijer). The adopted boy enlisted in memory of Donny, but he’s since gone AWOL with girlfriend Karen (Lisa Cirincione) — and is now a person of interest to the military police.

When the desperate Michael turns up, the families’ ties begin to fray. Their shared values turn out to be an illusion maintained by middle-class comfort: Only crisis reveals what side everyone’s really on. To Pasqualini and director David Gautreaux’s considerable credit, the devolution of these careful lives feels credible, even inevitable. Scenes play with an immediacy that draws you to the characters, even at their ugliest. (Joy and Mel’s incendiary discussion of parenting choices is particularly memorable.) The ensemble goes all out, even when the playwright veers toward melodrama.

“Loyalties” tells a wrenching story of dilemmas that even Obama can’t solve. Politics aside, Joy’s rage stays with you long afterward: Why should most Americans go about their pampered lives, sacrificing nothing, when a only a few give their all?

 – Charlotte Stoudt

“Loyalties,” Pacific Resident Theatre, 705 Venice Blvd., Venice. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 28. $20 to $25. Contact: (310) 822-8392 or Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Sarah Brooke and Albert Meijer. Credit: Vitor Martens.