Groundswell at Globe no Tsunami but thought provoking

San Diego, CA---Several months ago I wrote about a documentary that was being shown as part of the Jewish Film Festival called The Wrong Side of the Bus. It was about a noted professor of psychiatry who was born, grew up and went to school in South Africa during the days of Apartheid.He left his native country shortly after receiving his PhD. He never got over the guilt he felt for not standing up to it and protesting (unlike playwrights Ian Bruce and Athol Fugard who were politically active in their day). When he returned to Cape Town on the occasion of his fortieth college reunion, he visited old haunts trying to right the wrongs he felt were put on the Blacks in his country and in his community. After a long, agonizing and emotional trip visiting old haunts he was able to leave with a new sense of self but the wounds still remained.While Apartheid might have been dismantled in the early 1990s the scars, guilt and injustices will be written about, examined and debated over for years to come. Groundswell (It comes from the TS Elliot poem The Dry Salvages) a new play by Ian Bruce, who was trained as an actor in Johannesburg, is a fresh post Apartheid look into the psychological ramifications that encompasses the social and economic damage that both White and Black citizens are still reeling from today.Although none of the characters in Bruces play, Groundswell, in an eye opening and somewhat of a thriller now on the Sheryl and Harvey White Stage at the Old Globe, are cut from the same cloth they are all effected and intertwined and victims in one way or another by the strains of Apartheid and its not so feel good aftermath.Three in all, they are thrown together in a large communal dining room at the beachfront cottages of the Garnet Lodge (Kate Edmunds). The Lodge is located in a small port town on the South African West Coast where diamonds are mined oft times sucked up from the sea with a vacuum cleaner or hydraulic type hose. They are pulled up and fed on to the mother ships. Sometimes lone scuba divers risk life and limb for a chance to strike it rich by diving. A few independent or rebels enter into the waters at their own risk.Such is the case of Johan (Antony Hagopian is the perfect chameleon like character hard and demanding on one hand and threateningly dangerous on the other). His body is wracked from diving for diamonds. He dives, commercially when the weather permits and body allows. He wants to be a mine owner. His left arm is barely useable and his mood is foul and threatening especially when he drinks. He can be engaging, but a little intense when sober. He does odd jobs as a handyman around the Lodge and lives in a shack across from it. Oh! He is also an ex cop who spent three years in jail for killing a man point blank while on duty.Thami (Owiso Odera) is the gardener and caretaker at the lodge during the off-season. He also tends the main house and any potential guests. His wife and children live in poverty in a shack away in the city. His goal is to raise himself up above the poverty level and have a farm of his own for his family to live on together. He writes promising letters to his wife assuring her that diamonds are but a step away. He and Johan have formed a business but rocky friendship, if you will. Both want something from the other and neither trusts the other.Smith (Ned Schmidtke) happened on the Lodge to see if there was a golf course available. He seems an affable and pleasant guy who becomes the object of interest to both Johan and Thami. Smith is wealthy, a widower with children, grandchildren (who have since moved out of the country) and who is living off the investments he made over the years. Hes easygoing and completely unaware of any potential danger to him.All three have their special wounds from the before, during and after the effects of Apartheid. This unfolds after we discover that Thami and Johan need money to buy a deed to an unclaimed government owned diamond mine. Johan just wants to take it; Thami wants to do it legally. To do this, they need more cash than either can scrape up. Over dinner they (Johan) pitch a deal to Smith who has the look, Gold Amax card and expensive wheels, of someone with investment money to spare.When Smith, smoothly played by Schmidtke, scoffs at the idea of investing in a diamond mine, Johan becomes agitated and hostile toward him. Following a few drinks with dinner, something Johan promised Thami he wouldnt do, and becoming more frustrated with Smith, he flashes his knife and circles around Smith in threatening gestures that even Thami backs away from. Johan rages and rants about how he was unfairly treated and now that he and Thami are friends he can put his past behind him if only he had money (from the mine).After being coerced, with a knife at his throat, into giving the pair a check Smith fumes telling them about how he was pushed out of his top-notch position as an investment banker after Apartheid fell and of a quota system that gave preferential treatment to younger black applicants. It is in this exchange, rather late in the play, that Schmidtke really comes to life.As for Thami, (excellent timing and performance by Odera who stepped into the part at the last moment) he wavers back and forth gently siding with Johan and then backing off to a more realistic approach. Director Kyle Donnelly has us in suspense for several moments when Johan has Smith in a corner confiscating both his credit card and car keys and threatening to do him bodily harm.At some point Groundswell looked like it would become a murder by numbers play when in fact it turned out to be an eye-opening lesson of what Apartheid had done to citizens from many walks of life.Watching the three circle, back off and circle again on Kate Edmunds tell tale but sparse nautical set (this one has a stuffed possum and other beach creatures set on end tables and breakfronts) keeps the action moving when little else but talk is taking place. The suspense does grow to groundswell proportions but fizzles after all is said and done leaving all the three shaken and only one the better for the exercise.In the end, Thami seems to come out the winner with Smith coming in a close second. Both will learn from this nights lesson but that doesnt mean the scars of oppression will go away any faster. Thami will buy his farm from the few diamonds he has been stashing away and Smith will continue to play golf. Johans future is already in the drink (no pun intended). Apartheid is a thing of the past, maybe.Lindsay Jones sound design of waves pounding as if being surrounded by high tide with a buoy bell sounding every so often warning of the incoming fog reminds us how remote the characters really are from land. There must be a lesson there. Groundswell is definitely worth a seeing.See you at the theatre.Dates: through April 17thOrganization: Old Globe TheatrePhone: 619-234-5623Production Type:Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa ParkTicket Prices: $29.00-$67.00Web: theoldglobe.orgVenue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre href='http://www.examiner.com/review/groundswell-at-globe-no-tsunami-but-thought-provoking' - http://www.examiner.com/review/groundswell-at-globe-no-tsunami-but-thought-provoking -