Review of Sideways
By Rex Pickett
Directed by Argo Thompson
For tickets & schedule:
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
Left Edge Theatre
Tickets: $25 General Admission
RUN: September 8 – October 1, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars
(September 15, 2017)
Sideways has morphed forms from bestselling novel to film and this stage adaptation by the original author, Rex Pickett. Although it takes place in Santa Ynez Valley wine country, the play is appropriate for this area, and the industrial style tasting room set design by Argo Thompson with vino pin wine racks is reminiscent of wineries in Sonoma County.
Wine snob and floundering writer Miles takes his buddy Jack on a whirlwind bachelor party, consuming vast amounts of alcohol in a quest for the perfect pinot noir. Along the way, they meet two beautiful vino enthusiasts and strike up an impromptu romance.
Wine country inside jokes abound, with hissy managers sputtering “this is a tasting room, not a bar” while pulling bottles away, and Miles attempting to explain how to properly drink wine, describing a delicate bouquet in pompous detail that has Jack rolling his eyes and downing the pour in a single gulp. The burgundy soaked sex scene with lovers as turned on by the wine as each other had the audience laughing hysterically, and constant derision of merlot was hotly contested in the lobby by locals who favor that varietal.
Ron Severdia’s Miles portrays an outward veneer of confidence that wears away in a downward spiral personified by clutching at an unopened bottle of Château Latour that is slowly degrading in quality. He is unwilling to uncork it and take the consequences, since it has become a parallel to his overall life decisions. In contrast, Chris Ginesi’s easy going Jack is terrified of commitment, bouncing between women in a headlong rush toward his wedding.
Recently divorced Maya (Maureen O’Neill) discovered her love of wine by taking revenge on her ex-husband’s infidelity by breaking open his treasured cellar and consuming the finest burgundies. O’Neill’s reserved charm is appropriate to the character, and she has a grounded authenticity to her reactions. Jazmine Pierce as Terra is a wildcat in her confrontation with Jack’s dishonesty, leaping on the bed, ferociously brandishing a golf club. The supporting cast moves through a variety of roles, Mark Bradbury’s tasting room managers being especially memorable.
The downfall of the play is in its length and pacing. With engaging characters and an entertaining concept, a tighter editing pass would have maintained the energy; instead, it slumps in several scenes, until building up to a satisfying conclusion. There are enough captivating interactions throughout to keep the audience interested; Thompson’s direction and the cast’s investment in their roles make up for the scattered timing by keeping characters realistic and connected. Left Edge Theatre’s Sideways celebrates the significance of close friendship, with its ups and downs, in a hilarious wine drenched road trip.