San Diego, 2005: Longtime friends share an evening of cocktails and pleasantries. But in “Loyalties,” Tony Pasqualini’s heated drama at Pacific Resident Theatre, there’s a herd of elephants in the room everyone wants to ignore. Since the death of their son Donny in Iraq, Joy (Robin Becker) has joined a right-wing support group, while jocular husband Frank (Michael Rothhaar) carries explosives in his bowling bag. Meanwhile, pediatrician Andrew (Pasqualini) and Mel (Sarah Brooke) hide the truth about their own son, Michael (Albert Meijer). The adopted boy enlisted in memory of Donny, but he’s since gone AWOL with girlfriend Karen (Lisa Cirincione) — and is now a person of interest to the military police.


When the desperate Michael turns up, the families’ ties begin to fray. Their shared values turn out to be an illusion maintained by middle-class comfort: Only crisis reveals what side everyone’s really on. To Pasqualini and director David Gautreaux’s considerable credit, the devolution of these careful lives feels credible, even inevitable. Scenes play with an immediacy that draws you to the characters, even at their ugliest. (Joy and Mel’s incendiary discussion of parenting choices is particularly memorable.) The ensemble goes all out, even when the playwright veers toward melodrama.


“Loyalties” tells a wrenching story of dilemmas that even Obama can’t solve. Politics aside, Joy’s rage stays with you long afterward: Why should most Americans go about their pampered lives, sacrificing nothing, when a only a few give their all?


 – Charlotte Stoudt

The world premiere of  Tony Pasqualini’s play “Loyalties” was presented  at the Pacific Resident Theatre(PRT)  on January 16.  The twenty-five-year-old theatre has done fine work over the years.  In this economic era when all artistic venues are struggling, the premiere of this work is especially heartening.


Director David Gautreaux make good use of the small space with a minimalist set of earth colors and excellent blocking to accentuate the emotional level of the words and actions of this message play.  His direction is intelligent and intuitive.


The time and setting of the work is 2005 during America’s War on Terror. The play explores what happens when people’s deepest loyalties are called into question.  Luigi Pirandello dealt with this same situation in his short story “War” set in World War I.


Tony Pasqualini wears the role of Andrew as comfortably as an old bathrobe.  He knows this man and his reactions to the other actors are natural.  Even when he acts totally out of character, the audience understands and sympathizes with him as a father who has been pushed to the limits for his son. Albert Meijer is terrific in his depiction of a distraught young man at the end of his rope, who is desperate for a new start. Sarah Brooke shines in Act Two, showing the complex emotions of every mother who is torn between her love for her child and doing the right thing.


This ensemble cast works extremely well together, and all the performances are excellent.


Pacific Resident Theatre has provided a wonderful opportunity to a bright, new playwright.

Tony Pasqualini uses irreconcilable differences between two San Diego families over their sons’ different attitudes to the Bush-era military adventures to underscore nearly-contemporary political points that Brecht might also have dramatized.  Pasqualini’s style, in contrast to Brecht’s, is a fierce realism

This fine play, a world premiere, is a vivid illustration of how politics in general and war in particular, can alienate life-long friends and torment families.


It opens during a cocktail hour, as two couples, one of whom has lost a son in the then current "war on terror". Jovial, rotund Frank (Michael Rothhaar), is a bit of a jokester but a gung ho patriot, in a right wing sort of way. His wife Joy (Robin Becker), is very much involved with a women's organization, a more radical version of Gold Star Mothers, who favor re-instating the draft. The host, Andrew(playwright Tony Pasqualini), a pediatrician, is a sensitive man married to the spirited Mel (Sarah Brooke). Their only son has gone AWOL from boot camp and they must decide between duty to country or loyalty to family.


All performances are up to the standards of P.R.T., in a word, excellent. The four principals handle the intense, dramatic situations with a passion that involves the audience to the core. And the lighter moments, and there are many, demonstrates their comic talents to good advantage. Albert Meijer as the troubled son Michael, gives us a painful insight into what must be in the minds of many young men who are sent off to fight an unpopular war. His girlfriend Karen (Lisa Cirincione),on the verge of a life-altering decision, balances firmness and vulnerability with equal skill. Although the play takes place in 2004, the subject remains as timely now as it will be, seemingly, in our lifetime. When you think about the story, and you will, the refrain of the folk song "when will they ever learn?". comes to mind. A well constructed, suspenseful and meaty play, directed by David Gautreaux. Don't miss it.

Tony Pasqualini

Direct Contact:  tmjpasqua@aol.com


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