“Annapurna”

“Annapurna,” presented by Theatre22 is a gem. Written by Sharr White, it is equally rich in humor and poignancy, and Director Julie Beckman seems to have done everything right with it.

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Photo by Robert Falk

If you love brilliant acting embedded in a great production, “Annapurna” is for you. In this two-hander John Q. Smith as Ulysses, former poet and professor, and Terry Lazzara as his ex-wife, Emma, play off each other and individually with finesse and intensity. Every gesture has meaning; every word is given just the right tone.

Ulysses, first seen nearly naked and tethered to a breathing machine is clearly waiting out the inevitable. He lives in a squalid trailer high in the mountains. When his ex-wife stumbles into his sorry abode, laden with many suitcases, he can only expect the worst. They haven’t seen each other for the 20 years since she walked out on him with their son. He has no desire to rekindle a relationship with her. But she’s not one to be put off. Ignoring his hostility, she begins to unpack and clean up the place despite his wheezing protests.

She’s come to alert him to the fact that the son he hasn’t seen or heard from in all those years has tracked him down and is coming to visit. She fears a nasty confrontation, one that requires her intervention.

He wants her out! She needs to clean, something she does with a vengeance. All the while they gradually unpack and put away the emotional baggage that entered with her. As the filthy trailer submits to her cleansing, so too do their troubled lives.

This all plays out on Michael Mowery’s terrific set and Jennifer Ewing’s scenic backdrop. “Disgusting” is probably the best word to describe the initial condition of the trailer, and how well it suits the current state of Ulysses life. Yet out its windows soar the magnificent peaks of the mountain. Filth and squalor juxtaposed to glory and majesty. The contrast is stunning.

Love can sustain itself, and it does in this heartbreaking but redemptive play that somehow also manages to cloak the emotion in humor.

Through March 12 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., (206-257-2203 or Theatre22.org)

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