Natural events don't get much more dramatic than an earthquake, and that experience is replicated in a visceral, bone-shaking way in Faulted, the world premiere that foolsFURY Theater Company has unveiled at Thick House. But seismic shifts alone can’t make a drama, and the often bizarre human interactions that propel Angela Santillo’s script left this viewer unmoved.
In theory a play about a huge impending earthquake should be a perfect fit for San Francisco audiences, but Faulted is very much a Los Angeles story. Aurora, an “earth empath” who can sense earthquakes before they happen, lives in a trailer in the San Fernando Valley. A young researcher from Cal Tech, Mitch, has come to study her and see whether and how this power of hers works.
Sam Bertken’s Mitch seems like your typical, straitlaced scientist (“Feelings are not scientific!” he maintains). He's also perpetually annoyed, and understandably so. Aurora, as played by foolsFURY co-artistic director Debórah Eliezer, comes off more as a flaky hippie than a grounded soothsayer, even if we know from the beginning that what she’s saying is true. She’s maddeningly evasive about even the simplest personal questions -- not to any particular purpose but just because she’s so quirky -- and Eliezer plays her avoidance very broadly. Mitch gets no respite at home, where his girlfriend, Noreen (Grace Ng), micromanages everything he eats and says. (Somehow their exhausting conversations are the most amusing part of the show.)
But this world of human foibles and interactions is is barely half of the play, as indicated by Noor Adabachi’s diptych scenery, which shows the cramped RV interior on one side and a jagged-edged, multilevel platform on the other, upon which personified fault lines live.
On the geological side of the stage, the fault lines just hang out together waiting to quake. They're the sort of diverse group who rarely hang out together in real life: Paul Collins’ Fernando is a leering punk-rock provocateur who can’t wait to stuff himself with In-N-Out Burgers until he bursts. (Earthquakes here are likened both to upset stomach and near-sexual release.) Joan Howard’s athletic Susanna, clad in workout clothes, is chiding and fretful, trying to keep everyone under control so they won’t crack the beautiful freeways she can’t stop rhapsodizing about. And Gustavo Alonso’s Chatsworth, a jolly surfer type with blonde dreadlocks, is an inactive fault line and generally ineffectual dude who spends all his time gawking at people having sex. (I have no idea what that has to do with anything, although there’s the obligatory joke about the earth moving.)