Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
That was my unfortunate reaction to Getting There, a play by Dipika Guha making its debut at New Conservatory Theatre Center's Walker Theatre. A story of two women friends who are in Paris for the trip of a lifetime (though both in their early 20s, who knows what their lifetimes will hold?), one of whom encounters a lesbian couple and the other gets caught up in the life of a single woman who lives in an ostensibly very large apartment that is "what you'd call 'shabby chic,' but she's French, so it's just...French."
Kai (Leigh M. Marshall) and Julie (Lauren Andrei Garcia) are the two Americans exploring the City of Light; Julie wants to hit the big tourist spots–the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre–while Kai is more interested in cemeteries, especially the most noted, Père Lachaise, where she makes a pilgrimage to the grave of Jim Morrison. But for the 24 hours in which the play takes place (although in shifts several times to the day before and a week earlier in Julie and Kai's adventure in Paris), the two young women mostly spend their time apart.
There's no real story here, and one scene never seems to justify the next, or any other scene, for that matter. People go places, they see things, they talk to each other, but nothing of real import happens. We are given no good reason to care about these characters, and nothing seems to truly be at stake for them–at least not anything related to the story being told.
The direction by Nailah Harper-Malveaux is skilled enough, but she's let down by an unbalanced cast whose delivery of Guha's text feels more like a first or second table reading than a fully rehearsed performance. Laura Domingo gives her character, Ira, a world-weary mien, as though nothing could shock her, despite her relative youth. Desiree M. Rogers and Simone Bloch play the married couple with a decent sense of naturalism, but the text never dives into the real truths and challenges of long-term relationships. Garcia is appropriately bouncy as the eager, energetic traveler ready to open her eyes to a world previously unknown to her, but Marshall's performance feels stiff and halting.
There are interesting themes being explored in Getting There, especially the search (by all five women) for a sense of individual agency and control over their lives. But sadly, the action that plays out on stage does very little to illuminate that very real struggle.
Getting There runs through February 20, 2023, at New Conservatory Theatre Center's Walker Theatre, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesdays - Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 - $65. For tickets and information, please visit NCTCSF.org or call 415-861-8972.