A neglected jewel …
The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre offers Dimetos—a different sort of play from the prolific Athol Fugard, in that it is not set in South Africa and doesn’t concern race.
The title character—a talented but troubled engineer who turns his back on urban life—comes from the notebooks of Albert Camus. But the play is a conscious venture into the style of Greek tragedy, replete with tragic flaws, fateful decisions and agonizing consequences.
The playwright’s use of symbolism is anything but subtle, even deliberately “in your face,” and portions of the dialogue do not sound “natural”; but Fugard leaves a lot of structure clearly in view. This may explain why big theater companies have largely taken a pass on the script. (The play premiered in 1975 at the Edinburgh Festival with the great Paul Scofield in the title role; this production at Sacramento’s tiny Thistle Dew is apparently the first on the West Coast.)
But director Maggie Upton, along with cast members Tim Sapunor, Adrienne Sher, Jessica Mayhew and Ryan Williams, makes a strong and convincing case that Dimetos is a neglected jewel. Sher shows a profound flair for indignant, knowing denunciation with several devastating speeches, while Sapunor—a middle-aged guy with a touch of gray, who can be a warm/domestic teddy-bear when he wants to—is quietly convincing (without puffing himself up) as the tragic lead. There’s also some basic—but effective—sound design.
Dimetos is not an easy play to watch, but it packs one heck of a punch in terms of human nature and human failings. Upton shrewdly uses the intimacy of this little basement theater to magnify the intensity. Recommended for the strong of heart and anyone with a literary bent.