somehow, mesa, the new studio play about a slightly pretentious writer in his early 30s taking a long trip, worrying about racist interpretations of the past and trying to find meaning in it all, did. lee campbell is terrific and versatile as 93-year-old bud, who's heading south for one last winter at mesa, his retirement community in arizona. he also plays a range of other characters and does a good job of creating quite different people while holding true to bud. rhys bevan-john is also strong as paul, the grandson-in-law driving him there. bevan-john nicely balances taking paul's concerns seriously with poking fun at his pompousness.
you can read my review here or below:
Bud, 93, is heading south for one last winter in the sun. His grand-daughter’s husband Paul, 34, is a “fulltime” writer, and that means he’s the natural choice to drive him from Alberta to Arizona.
Bud (Lee J. Campbell) is eager to see Denny’s, Motel 6 and the uninterrupted interstate while Paul (Rhys Bevan-John) is hot to see the “real” American west and the historical injustices done to the First Nations people.
Mesa, Neptune Studio’s new road-trip play, tells their story and it’s funny, intelligent and thoughtful, finding the balance between Bud’s pronouncement that people want to be entertained and Paul’s pleading that they need art.
Bud worked 30 years in a bank, lost his wife five years earlier and is running out of road, but he’s happy and easygoing, so long as the trip stays on route and on schedule.
Paul is floating in his life, touching nothing, building nothing. During a scheduled stop in a casino, Paul is amazed to discover “everyone wants to be here.” He seems amazed that anyone wants to be anywhere.
Paul’s problem is the problem of the Knocked Up generation of men. Our roles as stoic bread winners vanished with women’s liberation and we don’t know how to reimagine ourselves. Paul curls his lip at Bud’s “settling,” preferring to be permanently unsettled.
He’s been writing for 10 years but doesn’t have any money or any idea who he is. This, my generation believes, is a good thing. It’s better to refuse all the fruit on a tree than risk eating an imperfect piece. And so we starve ourselves in a land of plenty.
Bud may have a grown-man tantrum when they wind up at Wendy’s, but that’s because he genuinely loves Denny’s. His description of the joys of eating cereal with prunes and honey is poetic — and entertaining.
After a disappointing unscheduled detour to Tombstone (“It’s like Value Village run by the mob”) Paul and Bud roll into Mesa and the well-tended trailer park that is Bud’s winter home.
The old man dives into his busy social life in the created retirement community while the young man quails at the long road home.
In a courageous moment of physical comedy, Bevan-John dons a Speedo, grabs a beer, and discovers the joy of settling into a comfortable place.
Paul doesn’t feel old enough to be a grown up. A friend of mine once made the eye-opening observation that our parents weren’t old enough to be grown ups, either: it was the process of growing up (getting jobs, starting a family, settling down) that matured them.
Paul keeps running from his life, and making himself miserable, because he’s terrified of ending his extended adolescence. He can’t imagine what comes next.
“You don’t even have a reason to run away,” Bud scoffs when Paul tells him he wants to move to Mesa.
But he doesn’t have a reason to run home, either, and finding that is what Doug Curtis’s lovely little play is all about.
Jon Tattrie is a 30-something writer in Halifax. He’s not been to Mesa, but he’s certainly taken that trip.