North Coast Rep’s ‘Outgoing Tide’ to look at aging, memory and personal choice

Leo Marks, left, Andrew Barnicle and Linda Gehringer star in North Coast Repertory Theatre's "The Outgoing Tide."
(Aaron Rumley)

Director Nike Doukas is making her company debut with the 2011 play by Bruce Graham


In Bruce Graham’s 2011 play “The Outgoing Tide,” the crusty patriarch of an East Coast family is losing his fight against Alzheimer’s disease while also battling with his wife and son over his end-of-life decisions.

But Nike Doukas, who is making her directing debut at North Coast Repertory this month with “Outgoing Tide,” said she doesn’t think of Graham’s script as “an Alzheimer’s play.”

“I don’t believe that’s what the play is about,” said Doukas, a Los Angeles resident. “That’s what the play hinges on but really, to me, it’s about family and how we want our family member to see us clearly for who we are. We all feel we’re not completely seen. They’re struggling to convince the other characters to see them for what they want and who they really are.”

Doukas is an accomplished actor who has appeared in dozens of productions at California theaters, including the Old Globe, the Mark Taper Forum, Pasadena Playhouse, Berkeley Rep and American Conservatory Theater. She has also directed several plays, including Shakespeare’s “All’s Well that Ends Well” and “King Lear.”

She’s a longtime friend of North Coast Rep’s artistic director David Ellenstein, who sent her the script for “Outgoing Tide” sometime back and asked her to consider directing it. Doukas said she was hooked from the first read-through.

“It’s a really beautiful little family drama with just three characters,” she said. “This play takes place in memory and moving in time. That’s what intrigued me. This play is about details.”

The play’s main character is Gunner, a retired blue-collar trucking company owner, who enjoys passing his days fishing at his summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay. His wife, Peg, has tried talking her husband into moving into an assisted living center, but he has his own plans for his future. So Peg asks their adult son, Jack, to visit the cottage and help her convince Gunner it’s time to let go. But Jack has his own problems to deal with, including a strained relationship with his dad.

Doukas said the play moves back and forth through time as conversations during Jack’s visit trigger memories for the characters. Doukas said the fun part of the rehearsal process with the actors — Andrew Barnicle as Gunner, Linda Gehringer as Peg and Leo Marks as Jack — has been digging through the characters’ backstories to help their performances come alive.

“These characters are very specific people,” she said. “The parents are working class. He’s never gone to college and the mother didn’t go to college either, but they have a son who’s a college-educated business person, but he’s not happy. There’s all kinds of interesting texture to think about with these characters.”

While the subject of the play is serious, Doukas said the play is also quite humorous.

“These people are funny and the playwright is funny,” she said. “When you tell the truth about any crisis in any family, there has to be a lot of humor and some of it comes from recognizing ourselves.”

Over the past few months, several plays presented at San Diego theaters have dealt with the subject of aging, dying and adult caregiving. It’s a subject Doukas said many older theatergoers can relate to.

“It’s definitely in the zeitgeist,” she said. “Baby boomers are approaching that age and a huge percentage of our population is dealing with that subject as well.”

Doukas hopes audiences will give the show a chance despite its subject matter.

“I think if you love a really riveting story and mystery and you like to laugh a lot and you like something that leaves you with something to argue and debate about when the play is over, I think you will really enjoy this play,” she said.

‘The Outgoing Tide’

When: Opens Saturday, June 11, and runs through July 3. Showtimes, 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $54-$65

Phone: (858) 481-1055