‘This’ is a lot about that mid-life stuff at North Coast Rep in Solana Beach


ThisPuzzleBy Diana Saenger

Playgoers have a tendency to appreciate tried-and-true productions but also innovative ones that come from out of the box. That’s what patrons of the North Coast Repertory Theatre will encounter with Melissa James Gibson’s “This” onstage through April 29.

Directed by Kirsten Brandt, “This” is a comedy told through a physiological look at middle-aged characters who face changes in their lives.

“What I loved about this play is the language Melissa writes,” Brandt said. “She writes it like a musical composition to help navigate where you need to go as an actor and as a director, and uses language to see the obvious, but also to quote the subtext in an unusual way.

“This is a melancholy comedy that’s really funny and I think a rare find for people my age with questions like, ‘Have I met the right person? Am I doing the right thing? So for me, it’s nice to grapple with issues my friends and I are going through … and to have two women characters that offer really good parts for those 32 to 45 is great.”

The cast features Andrew Abelson (Alan), Richard Baird (Tom), Courtney Corey (Jane), Judith Scott (Marrell) and Matt Thompson (Jean Pierre).

Brandt (“The Frankenstein Project,” “Legacy of Light,” “Little Women”) said she was very specific when casting the show. “I couldn’t be happier with my cast,” she said. “I looked for people on a technical level who could handle this language, were not intimidated, and could grasp the truth of these characters.”

The story takes place over a week leading up to the anniversary of Jane’s husband’s death, which she must deal with along with attention from Tom, who is married to Marrell. She’s a jazz singer who is getting a lot of attention from Alan. Then there’s the French doctor, Jean Pierre, who arrives. Each character is in a fragile place and revaluating the choices they’ve made in their lives

Brandt and NCRT scenic designer Marty Burnett had their work cut out for them in staging the play. “There are seven locations, and Marty and I had to be smart in manipulating how to transform a living room into a jazz club and other locales,” she said. “But the intimate NCRT is perfect for this play as it makes audience members just want to sit in their living room and watch it unfold.”

“This” has adult language and adult themes and recommended for mature audiences.

If you go

What: “This”

When: Matinees, evenings to April 29

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre

987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $32-$49

Box Office: (858) 481-1055

Website: northcoastrep.org