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THEATER Sunday Evening
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2020-01-26

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Playwright: Zachary Karabashliev

At: Rose Valley Theatre Group at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: $30-$35. Runs through: Feb. 9

This world premiere English-language presentation of a 2009 "Best Play" award-winner in its native Bulgaria opens on a modest beachfront house during a cold, rainy Southern California day in 2005 where Nick and Rose are drinking their fourth bottle of wine since noon. Nick is venting his anger and pain at having discovered a cache of chastely intimate correspondence between Rose and a former co-worker. When next-door neighbor Stella arrives to hand over her house keys before departing for an acting job in New York City, the couple continues their squabble, confiding in the older woman despite her own marriage being far from exemplary.

What? You thought ALL Eastern European plays were political polemics, translated with bloodless academic precision and performed in quasi-Brechtian didacticspeak? To be sure, Balkan-war buffs might detect in Nick's previous career as a pro boxer hints of gangland connections, while a scene involving over-enthusiastic police officers answering a distress call is executed so broadly as to verge on caricature and a narrative structured on multiple flashbacks may impede the inattentive in chronological cognition. These are minor flaws, however. It's still 2020, and playwright Zachary Karabashliev deems his audiences ready to hear about how we live NOW—an assessment affirmed by the many Bulgarian-speaking theatergoers in attendance on a snowy weeknight.

The title of our play, we soon learn, is also the title of Stella's comeback project. The term describes the restless ennui engendered by a future promising no progress, either eventful, nor emotional. This is fine with Nick, who longs for a return to "before Sunday Evening" when life was simpler, but the question gnawing at Rose is whether the freedom afforded by a new start in a new country includes the rewards of personal fulfillment. As they struggle to resolve their disparate crises, neither they, nor we, heed the warning underlying Stella's passive acceptance of her circumstances.

For this flagship production of the Rose Valley Theatre Group ( performing under sponsorship of the Magura Cultural Center ), artistic director Zlatomir Moldovanski has assembled a company reflecting a level of skill diverging sharply from the stilted classroom stylistics too often associated with this genre. A cast led by Logan Hulick as the volatile Nick, Rachel Sepiashvili as the smoldering Rose and Maria Margaglione as the resigned Stella lend Karabashliev's discourse on the pursuit of happiness a colloquial grace and verisimilitude applicable to pilgrims of every country, culture, and social stratum.


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