“This Wide Night” at Seattle Public Theatre

Life doesn’t treat everyone kindly, and not everyone is equipped to cope effectively with life. In “This Wide Night” by Chloë Moss we enter the lives of two former cellmates in an English prison trying to make a go of it on the outside. These are devastatingly lost human beings, women badly equipped for life’s demands.

Marie (Emily Chisholm) has been on the outside long enough to have gotten a menial job and found a dingy bed-sitter (studio apartment). Into her life stumbles Lorraine (Christina Maslin), newly released, looking for a place to stay, overwhelmed by the challenges of rebuilding a life. With help from pills and liquor the women try to make it. But you leave the theatre thinking there’s little chance they’ll actually succeed.

The two gifted actresses pull out all the stops as they reveal their emotional turmoil, fear, loneliness, and heartache. The acting is superb, skillfully exposing the interplay of dignity and degradation. Sheila Daniels has precisely directed the production so that every emotional swing, hits you in the gut. The appropriately dismal set reinforces the plight of the characters.

Unfortunately the play’s mournful note just won’t let up. Initiated in an effort to provide rehabilitation therapy for women prisoners, the play is a bit too much social work, too melodramatic. The author deliberately withholds information. I can understand wanting the audience to focus on the women’s efforts to rehabilitate themselves, but I found this manipulative. Early on, I wanted to know why they had been in prison. The lack of answers to obvious questions is a dramatic flaw.

Problematic though the play is, this is a masterful production.

Through June 10 by Seattle Public Theatre at Bathhouse Theatre, 7312 W. Green Lake Dr. N, Seattle (206 524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheatre.org)

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