Before you let holiday shopping get the better of you, consider catching Sarah Ruhl’s The Oldest Boy, which winds up its run at the San Diego Rep on Dec. 6. A heady, expressive performance by Amanda Sitton, beauitufl sets by Sean Fanning, and haunting Tibetan music arranged by Michael Roth are just three of the reasons to bond with this enlightened story about parents confronting the heart-rending decision of whether to let their 3-year-old son, evidently the reincarnation of a lama (or teacher), grow up without them on the other side of the world in a monastery. Sitton portrays the boy’s mother and does with such sensitivity that you’ll feel you are in her shoes.
Ruhl’s play has its draggy places, such as the Act One meet-cute flashback about the mother and the boy’s father (Napoleon Tavale). But what Ruhl (the vibrator play, The Clean House) imparts about academia, teachers and those who make the greatest sacrifices is smart and important. The sheer peace of the Buddhist way pervades all as Ruhl’s narrative melds with the production’s exquisite music and dance.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.