High wave and high-tech worlds collide in ‘Surf Report’
La Jolla Playhouse patrons who enjoyed Annie Weisman’s 2001 “Be Aggressive” can look forward to seeing her new play, “Surf Report,” making its world premiere at the Playhouse beginning June 15.
Weisman, who grew up in the Del Mar area, came to know the surfing culture of the San Diego region. Her story rides that wave but soon crashes into the high-tech scientific world that indistinctly encompasses the La Jolla community.
Although Weisman now lives away from San Diego, her idea to write a play about her native community was always on her mind.
“I’ve been fascinated with the contrast of the scientific working environment of the beautiful and natural La Jolla against its laid-back surfing culture,” Weisman said. “So many people know it’s a surfing community, but few know about the incredible academia scientific endeavors going on here as well.”
Gregory Harrison (“Steel Pier,” “Chicago,” “Trapper John, M.D,”) plays Bruce, a venture capitalist and surfer who meets his match, not riding the waves of La Jolla’s shores, but in his own boardroom.
“He’s wonderful in the role,” Weisman said. “It’s so exciting to see his great connection to his part, and it’s almost eerie the way he inhabits the character. It’s kind of like seeing your child become an independent person.”
Linda Gehringer (“The Piano Teacher,” “The Women,” “The West Wing,” “As Good As It Gets”) returns to La Jolla Playhouse in the role of Judith, Bruce’s daily assistant. “When Judith becomes attracted to Bruce’s power and influence, she wants to be a colleague instead of his assistant,” Weisman said. “Now all she has to do is pitch her idea to him.”
Part of Weisman’s theme is the power struggle for women between work and family. She started writing with the perspective of the daughter, but when she became a mother, her viewpoint broadened.
As Judith struggles with her career, she also must face problems with her husband, Hal (Matthew Arkin — “Gabe,” “Dinner with Friends,” “Lost In Yonkers,” “Law & Order”). He’s not happy with Judith’s employment situation.
Judith is also reminded that their daughter, Bethany (Zoë Chao – “Phantom Band,” “The Seagull”), remains struggling as an artist in New York to avoid the strife in her family.
“We know women can’t do everything,” Weisman said. “ ‘Surf Report’ is also about the enormous compromises they make for their families, and what happens when dreams are deferred and how pursuing our own passions and vision sometimes come with sacrifices of supporting and caring for others.”
While the play has some drama, especially when Bethany must return home for a family emergency, it also has humor. Weisman inserts many local references into the dialogue, which usually amuses the audience. Using surfing as a metaphor for the play, Weisman includes surf reports throughout the story. “This becomes the emotional temperature of the play, and particularly for Bruce, who has this great pull like a tide,” she said.
Weisman is enjoying working again with Lisa Peterson (“Mother Courage and Her Children,” “The Country”), director of nine productions at La Jolla Playhouse, including the world premiere of “Be Aggressive.” Weisman worked as an intern with Peterson while working on her bachelor’s degree at Williams College. Peterson is also an accomplished television writer with credits on the shows “Dead Like Me,” “Inconceivable,” “The Cleaner,” “Samantha Who” and “Heartland.” She will return this year to work on other TV shows including “Desperate Housewives.”
“I enjoy the balance that working in both theater — which is mostly a solitary experience — and television, which is more social since I work with other writers,” Weisman said. “But I’m really happy to return to the wonderful La Jolla Playhouse with this unusual story about San Diego. I think the audiences like seeing themselves reflective in both comic and serious ways and will truly enjoy it.”
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m.
Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays,
June 15-July 11
Where: La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre
Contact: (858) 550-1010;