Yosemite Director Pedro Pascal Leaves His Actors Out in the Cold

Seth Numrich convincingly digs for direction (coming up empty handed) while Raul Abrego builds a set to remember for an unconscious play better left behind the curtains.

Numrich, Erbe, Galvin and Woodbridge.

The best thing (correction: the only thing) worth remembering about Yosemite, a paralyzing bore at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater on Waverly Place, is the terrific set by Raul Abrego. On a stage the size of a forever stamp, we are in the middle of a snow-covered redwood forest. Gigantic trees grow into the ceiling, denuded shredded branches and fallen logs the size of Humvees litter the landscape. You can smell the evergreens and hear the wind. You reach for a sweater. Then a truckload of Valium by Daniel Talbott is dumped on the landscape while you try to stay awake, as three miserable siblings brave the cold and dig a grave to bury their baby brother wrapped in a garbage bag. Big brother Jake, played by Seth Numrich, a dynamic actor with great body language and a riveting way of saying even the most banal sentences with moment-to-moment sensitivity, starts things off by digging a hole in the middle of the stage. It must be deep enough so animals can’t smell the flesh and dig up the corpse. It must also produce enough black dirt to keep the play going for 80 minutes. Mr. Numrich, fresh from his triumph in War Horse at Lincoln Center, has the most thankless role of the year. He’s a very good actor but all he’s required to do here is shovel piles of dirt and yell more F-words than can be found in any David Mamet play and sweat and dig some more.

Eventually his older sister Ruby (Libby Woodbridge) and younger brother Jer (Noah Galvin, who says nothing) start talking about how bleak their lives are. They live in a trailer with cardboard boxes taped across the windows, wear second-hand clothes and eat processed foods donated by the church. All they want to do is go to Disneyland, but Jake confesses he might go away instead with an old man covered with tattoos who promises him a fate that only exists in nightmares. This palaver goes on pointlessly and painfully for 45 minutes while the cast turns into butter trying to make sense of the deadly dialogue. Somebody called Pedro Pascal is listed in the program as “director,” but since there is no evidence of any direction within a 50-mile radius, the actors are on their own. Then, at last, the mother appears, toting a hunting rifle, and played by the wonderful actress Kathryn Erbe, from Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Sanity at last, you hope. Wrong. She indulges in her own long, pointless monologue about her deprived childhood in simpler times and her happy days as the first girl with a newspaper route in Oakland, Calif. They talk about an aquarium in Monterey where they watched sea otters, wild horses in the Mojave Desert and the log-jam ride at Knott’s Berry Farm. Just when you start praying for an intermission so you can leave, Mom wanders into the woods and the silence is shattered by the blast of her rifle. Did she find a squirrel for dinner? Or did she blow her head off? The stage darkens. The applause sounds like gloves rubbed together in a snowstorm. Who writes this drivel? How does it get produced? Do these actors have agents? No wonder nobody wants to go to the theater anymore. Despite the title, this numbing nonplay does not take place in Yosemite. When it finally ends, you’ll wish you had spent the last 80 minutes somewhere else, but Yosemite might not be far enough.

rreed@observer.com

 

Yosemite Director Pedro Pascal Leaves His Actors Out in the Cold