By JEAN LOWERISON | Uptown News
Friendship is easy when life is easy. It’s when life gets a little sticky wicket that relationships are tested.
Lissette (Aleque Reid) is a spirited woman in her late 30s who has carefully guarded her independence. She’s determined not to die leaving anything she wanted to do undone. But Lissette has just found out that she’s looking death in the face.
Playwright Melissa Ross’ latest play “The Luckiest” gives us a meditation on friendships, family and final exits. Part of La Jolla Playhouse’s 2018 DNA New Work Series, “The Luckiest” is directed by Jaime Castañeda in its world premiere through July 28 at the Potiker Theatre.
The topic sounds a bit heavy, eh wot? But Lissette, who has always lived life in her own way, treats the diagnosis of a devastating, debilitating, always fatal disease — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease — the way she’s handled the rest of her life: her way.
Still, it’s a good thing she met her best friend Peter (Reggie D. White) at that New York City bar years ago, and that he’s willing to spend time with her that he might otherwise use in the search for a boyfriend.
Lissette’s mother Cheryl (Deirdre Lovejoy), the third character in this triad, rushes over from her Massachusetts home. Cheryl has a heavy Boston-tinged accent and seems to shout more than she talks. She wants Lissette to move out of her fifth-floor New York walkup to Cheryl’s ground-floor condo in Woburn, about 10 miles from Boston.
Lissette turns that offer down flat. But she does come up with another idea: she’ll decide when it’s time, rent a place in Vermont and throw a big Death Party, as Peter calls it. Why Vermont? Because suicide is legal there.
This all sounds a lot grimmer than it plays. My complaint isn’t about the topic, it’s about the sound system at the Potiker that always leaves me wishing they’d mic the actors. And with some of the dialogue, which is redundant if not downright repetitive.
No complaints about the acting, though, other than the aforementioned noise level from Lovejoy’s Cheryl. But she creates a credible, concerned and pushy mom.
White, a welcome returnee from previous Playhouse productions, embues Peter
with humor and concern.
Reid is excellent as take-charge Lissette, who has lived in her own way. She’s left Peter with a “lucky” bicentennial penny and now she’ll exit in her own way.
We should all be so lucky.
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at