People say you should never discuss business with family, but that advice clearly never reached the characters in this play. At the center of the story is Paul, a fiercely independent old guy who runs a dilapidated shrimp boat, and is deeply disappointed that his modern-minded sons are not continuing the family business.
Paul: But our family been independent since our people settled these bayous. We work for ourselves, we own ourselves. And now you look at the two of you, you work for somebody else, you depending on someone else for a job…
And the two sons are as different as can be. One is a highly educated environmental scientist, studying climate change, rising sea levels, and the erosion of low-lying river deltas. The other son has a dirty, dangerous job on an offshore oil platform. All three men spend plenty of time jawing about who’s made the better choice in life.
An accident shifts the story midway through -- the old man is badly burned when the ancient engine in his shrimp boat catches fire. He comes home in bandages – he’s rarely seen a doctor – and complains:
Paul: The hospital, they don’t let you rest nothing. They got a racket going there. They stick you with needles and make you swallow pills and they take away your pants. (laughter) And they charge you money for that!”
Son: It’s not a resort hotel.
Paul: Well, they sure charge like one…
It’s a lot of fun watching silver-haired actor Richard Winters as the bigger-than-life Cajun curmudgeon. Winters is as charming as he is crusty, and gives as good as he gets. I also liked the way playwright Nedra Pezold Roberts weaves this family saga together with environmental themes – big chunks of the Louisiana coast are disappearing due stream channelization and rising tides.
This low-budget, semi-professional production manages to combine all these elements in an appealing way – it’s an engaging yarn, with more than a touch of contemporary relevance.
The California Stage production of "The Vanishing Point" continues on weekends through April 27th.