September 27, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Brian Raine’s Sand in the Air Premiered in Santa Monica: Morgan-Wixon Unveils First Performance to World

“Sand in the Air” is the world premiere of a new play by up-and-coming playwright Brian Raine, a first in the 65-year history of the Morgan-Wixson Theatre.

Raine deals with two uncomfortable topics: a trial for sexual misconduct and the corruption of an incestuously small town. The title seems appropriate, for like sand in one’s eyes, the play feels irritating and the feeling lingers afterwards.

The setting is a small Texas town called Yaktaw, near the Mexican border and, home to a plastics factory that employs almost all the residents. Young Dr. Howard Bogatch (Devin Williamson) and his wife Linden (Anya Warburg) come to Yaktaw with the hope that the small town environment will be a nice place for them to begin a family and for Howard to practice medicine.

But Dr. Bogatch is not a comfortable fit for the town. He finds that a few people seem to own everything, that everyone is expected to socialize with everyone else, and that his individualism (he opts for homeopathic remedies rather than the heavy drugs favored by the townsfolk) is not understood.

When Howard is accused of sexually molesting some of his female patients, he can only turn to one lawyer, Billy Rafferty, who also owns various local businesses. Rafferty is a boisterous “Big Daddy” type with a Southern drawl and, a penchant for bad lawyer jokes. Deviousness infects every syllable he utters. The doctor suspects that Rafferty is corrupt, that he might even be in collusion with the equally shysterish prosecutor, Nola Montgomery (Diane Alayne Baker). The main accuser, Thelmae (Barbara Lanigan), a flirt with short skirts and a tattoo, would normally be a prosecutor’s nightmare witness except that for this case she is being coached in behavior that will make her seem believable in court. Worst of all, it has been leaked that Howard is the son of a Congressman- perfect for scandal and rumors of big payments to “buy him off” the charges.

Raine’s play was inspired by an actual Texas court case. How much of the real case is portrayed in the play is not for the audience to know. The message is that American justice is buried under deep layers of money and influence, that small towns in certain parts of the country are more likely to be steeped in corruption, and that no social issue is sacred enough not to be exploited for monetary gain. The opportunists on both sides of the case obscure the real issues of sexual harassment.

The amorality portrayed here as endemic to small towns (and to the South) has been established as a literary and theatrical cliché think Tennessee Williams, whose work has influenced Raine. Raine works hard to make the story believable and does succeed in making us squirm. But the satirical touch that he is trying for does not come across. One waits for a twist and the only revelation that comes is that corruption can only be fought with more corruption.

It is largely through the acting of some of the ensemble members that “Sand in the Air” is able to establish some suspension of disbelief. Dominating all his scenes is Larry Gesling, a Morgan-Wixson company veteran, as Rafferty. He manages to make the character detestable without resorting to scenery-chewing. Williamson, a newcomer, handles the role of Dr. Bogatch admirably, slowly unfolding the multiple layers that make up this young man’s personality. Barbara Lanigan makes Thelmae an amusing caricature of a Southern vixen.

Some scenes in which characters talk at the same time are a bit difficult to follow. A few lines of dialogue also were not as audible as they should have been. While director Teresa Dowell-Vest has the cast delivering its lines rapidly, a little slowing down would help with the diction, which is especially important in the opening scenes.

“Sand in the Air” plays at the Morgan-Wixson through May 28. The Morgan-Wixson is located at 2627 Pico Boulevard, 310.828.7519.

Related Posts

Review: “Away”

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

“Away”Rated TV-14Season 1 – 10 One-Hour EpisodesReleased September 4th on Netflix In 2014 Esquire Magazine published a thorough article by...

Beloved Santa Monica Artist Passes Away at 99

August 31, 2020

August 31, 2020

Venezuelan born artist surrealist artist Luchita Hurtado passes away  By Toi Creel For some in Santa Monica, the name Luchita...

Brock on Your Block: Saturday Morning Neighborhood Jazz

August 24, 2020

August 24, 2020

In the latest Brock on Your Block, Phil discovers an impromptu Jazz Concert by the neighbors – a great way...

Film/TV Review: Upload

May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

FILM/TV REVIEWUPLOADRated TV-MA30-Minute EpisodesSeason 1,10 Episodes Released on Amazon Prime May 1st Upload has the guise of a cute rom-com....

Edify TV: Santa Monica Place Food Court Vacancies

March 10, 2020

March 10, 2020

Another restaurant has closed in the Santa Monica Place food court, adding to the number of vendor vacancies. Learn more...

Fried Chicken and Doughnut Joint Closes Santa Monica Location

March 4, 2020

March 4, 2020

All Southern California Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken shut down By Toi Creel After an almost three-year-long stint, Astro Doughnuts...

Edify TV: Free and Affordable Meals for SMC Students

March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020

Santa Monica College has opened its first Everytable SmartFridge. Learn more about this program to make healthy meals affordable for under $5 (and...

Lazy Daisy Cafe to Reopen Doors With New Menu, Ownership

February 27, 2020

February 27, 2020

Feb. 28 soft opening By Toi Creel A popular Santa Monica eatery-once planned to be closed for good – is...

Cinema at the Edge Film Festival Returns

February 19, 2020

February 19, 2020

February 21st to 23rd – Edgemar Center for the Arts By Staff Writer Housed at the Edgemar Center for the...

My Own Academy Awards

February 7, 2020

February 7, 2020

On May 16, 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization founded by Louis B. Mayer to...

Brock on Your Block: The Maiden Factor

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

Phil Brock meets Tracy Edwards, MBE, skipper of Maiden, who led the first all-female crew to complete the Whitbread Round...

Santa Monica High School Graduate Becomes NASA Astronaut

January 14, 2020

January 14, 2020

Dr. Jonny Kim becomes first Korean American astronaut By Sam Catanzaro A graduate of Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) has...