Not everything is as it seems in Keiko Green's 'Sharon'
Playwright, screenwriter and actor Keiko Green wants you to know right away that something isn't quite right.
In the opening scene of Cygnet Theatre's production of Green's play "Sharon," the namesake Sharon and her adult son, Jake — or "Jakey" as she sometimes calls him — discuss their days and prepare dinner.
It's a normal enough scene (OK, except for the "Jakey" thing).
But as the two interact, uncertainty, strangeness and suspense bubble up to the surface. They're the apparent landlords of an old apartment building in various states of disrepair, but things are more complicated beneath the surface.
The audience is left with the sense that not everything is as it seems, and dinner hasn't even been served yet.
"We're seeing this very strange, tense mother-son relationship," Green said. "We ask this question of: What is really going on here? The play itself is a little bit of a mystery — you have to keep figuring out what's going on. What I'm really proud of is that every question actually is answered within the play."
In fact, shortly after the opening scenes, the veil lifts — somewhat — for the audience to better understand Sharon and Jake.
"We find out pretty early on in the play that the Sharon that we are seeing is perhaps — there's kind of another Sharon that looms over the piece and has a lot of power over Jake."
"Sharon" runs June 7 through July 2, 2023.
7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town.
Ticket information: here. $27+.
Jake is the play's protagonist and central point of view, though he's a tough character to love. Green deftly writes softness and vulnerability into difficult characters like Jake, indicative of the kind of story she's drawn to tell.
"I'm always really interested in stories that complicate our humanity — stories of good people doing bad things and bad people doing good things," Green said. "For me, the goal's always 'How can I fall in love with each character? Even the ones I don't necessarily agree with or that scare me?"
"Sharon" unfolds like a comedy, but Green uses the term "Hitchcockian" to evoke the slow-burn, absurd drama and mystery that suggests the classic film director.
"Originally we were calling it a 'psychological thriller farce,'" Green said. The absurdity and humor is often served by the other characters, particularly a bank teller called Gregg.
In addition to being a playwright, Green is also an actor. In Cygnet's production, she'll play the role of Tina, a character who becomes friends with Jake. Green said that her own personality often seeps into her writing, but in Tina's case, it's a close match.
"So when I was talking with the director, Robbie (Rob Lufty), we were talking about the character (of Tina) and I was telling him 'She really needs to be sounding like this … She needs to be bringing this energy,' and he's just like 'You should just play this part,'" Green recalled.
Green is based in Los Angeles and Seattle, but lived in San Diego while working on her recent MFA at UC San Diego. While here, she connected with San Diego's theater scene, working as an actor (her first role in San Diego was in Cygnet's production of Lauren Yee's "The Great Leap" mere weeks before the pandemic).
One of Green’s other recent plays, “Exotic Deadly” just finished its world premiere run at The Old Globe, and like “Sharon,” it was also workshopped in local theaters — “Exotic Deadly” in the Globe’s Powers New Voices Festival and “Sharon” in Cygnet’s Bill and Judy Garrett Finish Line Commission reading series.
"The smartest thing I had done in the last few years was to really invest in the theater community here, because I do think it's really, really special," Green said of San Diego. "It's a city but it feels like a town, where everybody just kind of knows each other — there's support for one another."
"Sharon" runs June 7 through July 2 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.