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The Tragedy of End-of-Life Decisions in ‘The Outgoing Tide’ at North Coast Rep

His cast
Linda Gehringer (left), Leo Marks and Andrew Barnicle in “The Outgoing Tide”. Photo by Aaron Rumley

We grow old and lose weight from mind, body, memory and spirit: if it has not hit us or our parents yet, it will.

No one escapes the final curtain. it has to do simply with how slowly and painfully it falls… and who will decide when.

It is always difficult for the family.

Gunner’s wife, Peg, and their 50-year-old son, Jack, are having a particularly difficult time when Gunner goes back in time, repeats himself endlessly, or forgets who they are.

In his later days, Gunner was a hardline Philadelphia player. He is still trying to control what his family is doing. And he still says thick and painful things. Mostly she does not want to wear a diaper or be ashamed. But he refuses to even look at the brochure for a care unit that Peg continues to push. “It’s like a cockroach motel: you check in but you don’t check out,” he says.

Both parents always told Jack huge lies (“Santa Claus steals toys”, “I know a boy who died doing this”) and always pushed him in the middle of their quarrels. They both told him secrets and noticed that he did not tell the other parent.

Even in the midst of a divorce, and a very difficult son on his own, this can be the most challenging situation Jack ever wins.

The tide turns repeatedly Bruce GrahamThe drama of 2011, “The Outgoing Tide”, which jumps back and forth in memory and time.

At the moment, we are at Marty Burnett’s lovely Chesapeake Bay house, full of sand and stones (Jack keeps trying and failing to bypass the stones), with Fieldstone walls, shingles and a wooden interior (with a strange gap back wall that provides a canvas for Matt Novotny’s often warm pink lighting.The water reflections from the bay are beautiful, however).

Aaron Rumley’s sound design, with its waves, birds and buoy bells, immerses us in this externally peaceful but internally controversial and conflicting environment.

Everyone just wants to be seen and heard. Each character spent a lifetime reconciling, abolishing dreams and postponing ambitions. And now, everyone is faced with the ultimate choice: how to end a life with dignity.

Directed by Nike Douka, each of the three capable actors carries an authentic, completely reliable character.

Andrew Barnicle is funny but unconscious as a proud, rude and controlled Gunner, who eventually lets go of some of his remorse for the way he treated his son.

Linda Gehringer, always a steady, trustworthy singer (she has appeared in The Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse), is endlessly devoted to her husband, always steady but sometimes frustrated and indignant. And now, she’m scared.

Leo Marx is trapped in a web of problems at home and with his parents, still immersed in the ambivalence of his parent-child relationship and on the road to repeating some of his father’s worst behaviors.

It is a creepy story, full of hot questions and painful decisions. The kind of fears and decisions that many families have to make – before anyone escapes or accidentally sets fire to their home.

You will laugh here, for sure (if you do not mind politically incorrect jokes). But you will also have to consider your own decisions at the end of your life – and those of your family.


  • “The Outgoing Tide” running at North Coast Repertory Theater987D Lomas Santa Fe Dr. at Solana beach, until July 3
  • The performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 7 pm, Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, with matinee on Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.
  • Tickets ($ 54- $ 65) are available at 858-481-1055 the Northcoastrep.org
  • Performance duration: 1 hour. 50 minutes. (including break)
  • COVID Protocol: Vaccination proofs and masks are no longer required, but masks are recommended.

Pat Launer, Member of American Theater Critics Association, is a longtime San Diego art writer and Emmy Award-winning theater critic. You can find a file with its previews and reviews at patlauner.com.

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