Reviewed by Judy Richter
Playwright Diana Son explores several 21st century concerns in her 2006 drama, "Satellites," being given its West Coast premiere by Aurora Theatre Company. Directed by Kent Nicholson, "Satellites" also is the company's fully staged production in its Global Age Project. This project encourages playwrights and directors to look at 21st century life and presents developmental readings during the run of "Satellites."
The play's setting is today's Brooklyn, where married couple Miles (Michael Gene Sullivan) and Nina (Julie Oda) and their infant daughter have moved into their newly purchased, dilapidated brownstone. Miles has recently lost his job, and Nina, an architect, has her studio in their basement, where she works with her business partner, Kit (Ayla Yarkut). Miles is black, but a white family adopted him as a newborn and reared him in a white neighborhood. That explains why he has a white brother, Eric (Darren Bridgett), who unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep after months of traveling abroad. Nina was born of Korean parents, but never learned their language or many of their customs. Hence, she hires the Korean-born Mrs. Chae (Lisa Kang) to serve as the baby's nanny and to teach her the Korean language and culture.
Miles and Nina are both deeply stressed because of their limited finances. Nina is additionally stressed by the demands of motherhood, which have kept her from her work, putting more of a burden on Kit and jeopardizing their work on a project they plan to submit to an international competition.
Eric's arrival adds more stress, as he seems intent on staying with them and convinces Miles that they should open a more upscale food store in the gentrifying neighborhood. Meantime, a black man from across the street, Reggie (Michael J. Asberry), walks into their house as if he belonged there and seems to know how to get them a deal on everything they need -- including someone to repair their front window after a rock was hurled through it.
Set designer Melpomene Katakalos' set, with its cracked plaster walls and packing boxes, works well, as do Michael Palumbo's lighting, Callie Floor's costumes and Chris Houston's sound.
Nicholson's direction is sure-handed, and the acting is excellent, especially by Oda, who capably conveys Nina's increasing stress. Coincidentally, Oda, an eight-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, was featured in the festival's outstanding production of Son's earlier "Stop Kiss." With "Satellites," however, playwright Son may be juggling too many themes. He focuses both on Nina's exhausting efforts to maintain a career, motherhood and marriage and on Nina's and Mile's search for greater connection to their roots. These issues are complicated by racism and doubts about some characters' motives..