Southern discomfort

The Vanishing Point

“Come on, son: I’ll be the shrimp-boat captain, and you be the first mate.”

“Come on, son: I’ll be the shrimp-boat captain, and you be the first mate.”

Photo by Nedra Pezold Roberts

The Vanishing Point, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$20. California Stage in the R25 Arts Complex, 2509 R Street; (916) 451-5822; Through April 27.
Rated 4.0

You have to admire a new play that successfully knits together science, geography, family dynamics and more. And in The Vanishing Point (making its premiere at California Stage), disappearing lowlands in coastal Louisiana (triggered by shortsighted government channelization), combined with shifting economic fortunes (high-paying jobs on offshore oil platforms vs. low-paying jobs on shrimp boats), are seen through the viewpoint of a Cajun family caught up in an intergenerational struggle. There's plenty going on, and playwright Nedra Pezold Roberts manages to combine it all into a tasty gumbo.

At the center is salty Paul St. Pé, a barely literate old shrimper on the edge of poverty who clings to his independence, and is deeply disappointed that neither of his sons will work with him on his boat. The oversized role is a plum part for Richard Winters, a veteran we saw pretty regularly in decades past in shows at the Sacramento Theatre Company; B Street Theatre; and the late, lamented Foothill Theatre Company. Winters opted some years ago for a steadier paycheck teaching, but the urge to act is still in his blood, and it's a treat to see him again, now that he's moved into the silver-fox category.

The two sons—college-educated Pierre (Jeremy Minagro, who's clearly studied acting somewhere) and younger brother T-Paul (Nick Lunetta), who's taken a dangerous job on an oil platform—clash periodically with each other and the old man. The two brothers also contend, to a degree, for hometown sweetheart Jolie (Emily Kentta, a Sacramento State University student who did Hurricane Katrina relief in 2009). Director Ray Tatar, working on a shoestring budget, makes effective use of his mixed professional and community cast, and keeps the narrative simmering. (Alas, the show misses an opportunity to allude to dramatic changes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that are underway, but that's a quibble.)