Dave Klasko and Ali Rose Dachis in "The Wanderers." Photo by Jim Cox
The dual worlds of Anna Ziegler’s The Wanderers do not physically collide, but they are remarkably intertwined in this smart world-premiere play directed by Barry Edelstein in the Old Globe’s White Theatre. One world is that of cerebral but detached Brooklynites Abe (Daniel Eric Gold) and Sophie (Michelle Beck). They’re both writers of the naturally tortured variety, though the successful Abe is also pretentious and in love with his every word, especially those he speaks in fits of narcissistic disillusionment. The other world is seen 20 years earlier. Its inhabitants are Abe’s father Schmuli, an ultra-Orthodox Jew in the Satmar Hassidic community, and mother Esther (Ali Rose Dachis, the cream of the cast), whose joyous spirit and freedom are oppressed by the arranged marriage.
When Abe begins an email relationship with Julia Cheever (Janie Brookshire), a beautiful devotee from one of his book readings, another layer of dysfunction is added to his deteriorating relationship with Sophie. Meanwhile, the parallel scenario from the past both heightens and explains the pain and guilt that drive Abe to sabotage all that is good in his turbulent life.
Ziegler’s characters have just enough serrated edges to stave off what could otherwise be First World wallowing. The depth of her script, with its multiple reflections on faith and self, ensures 100 minutes of thoughtful and riveting theater. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 4/25/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.