“This Random World” is a play about missed human connections, and so it’s a little ironic that it needed a connection of its own before it could claim a spot on this year’s slate of productions by the Majestic Readers’ Theatre Company.
“This Random World,” a 2016 play by Steven Dietz, has lingered for years on director John Elliott’s list of shows he’d like to stage – but it always seemed like another title would sneak in just above it on his list.
This year, though, an unexpected connection pushed it to the top of his list: Mike Aronson, the founder of the Readers’ Theatre company at the Majestic, also is an admirer of the play. Out of the blue, he asked Elliott to direct it.
Coincidence? Fate? A random occurrence? Does it matter? Elliott said yes, and the play will be presented this weekend as the latest online production from the Readers’ Theater company.
Dietz has said that “This Random World” is about “the life that is happening maybe just beside your own life. … The missed opportunities or the chance thing that might have happened today (or) may not have happened today. Only from the outside do we see we other people’s missed opportunities; we can rarely see our own.”
The play follows the intersecting lives of seven characters and explores not just the connections between them – but also how easy it is sometimes to miss a connection. The characters, Elliott said, “never ask the right questions. That’s how life actually works; in life, we don’t always ask the right questions.”
Those characters include Scottie, an aging mother who’s determined to protect her independence, and her caretaker, Bernadette. Scottie’s children, Beth and Tim, don’t know everything about their mother – in particular, they’re in the dark about her avid travel. Beth herself has a touch of wanderlust and journeys to Nepal during the play. The plot also involves two sisters seeking common ground and an internet prank gone awry. A reviewer for The New York Times called the play a “modest but affecting comedy-drama.”
Elliott said he knows he wants to direct a play when he’s reading it “and suddenly I can see the staging,” and that was the case when he first read “This Random World.” ‘
To help bring Dietz’s characters to life, the director assembled a cast that’s filled with mid-valley theater veterans, including Michael Wren, Harriett Owen Nixon, Charlotte J. Headrick and Don Taco. Arlee Olson, Danyelle Tinker and Michaela Lonning round out the cast.
Dietz is among the United States’ most prolific playwrights, and two of his other works, “Bloomsday” and “Becky’s New Car,” have been staged recently in the mid-valley. Dietz bounces around genres – he’s written political plays, comedies and thrillers – and, in that regard, he’s a bit like Elliott, whose directing efforts for the Majestic haven’t fit into a single category. (His recent directing credits include Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls” and an adaptation of Joan Didion’s wrenching “The Year of Magical Thinking.”)
That’s how Elliott likes it. “I do find things of interest from so many different genres,” he said. “It keeps it from being stale, I hope.”
If You Watch
What: “This Random World,” by Steven Dietz, an online production of the Majestic Readers’ Theatre Company.
When: The performance can be viewed anytime during the weekend of May 22-23.
How much: Tickets are $10, $15 and $20. Click here to buy tickets and to learn more about the play.