You can’t ignore this stage when you walk into the theatre. The simple set (by Amanda Sweger) is surrounded by what appears to be an abstract artwork composed of wood fragments joined together yet pierced throughout by streaks of light, many different colored lights. It’s stunning, compelling, but then as the play begins you wonder, “What does that magnificent background have to do with this story of a fractured family?”
Taproot’s dramaturg, Sonja Lowe got it right when she wrote in the playbill, “…there is something profoundly hopeful in the thought of beauty created from, not in spite of, brokenness.”
And the family we meet at the beginning of this play is certainly broken. Father, whose memory seems to be significantly impaired, is now in an old age home, and his two daughters have decisions to make about his future. Sadly, at this point in their lives, the only thing they have in common is their childhoods. One is a stay-at-home, born-again Christian with two children. The other is a hard driving journalist with little use for religion. Their mother has recently been killed in a car accident, though Dad doesn’t know about it and needs to be told.
Directed by Scott Nolte, the cast is uniformly good. Christine Marie Brown and Jenny Vaughn Hall are compelling as the sparring sisters. Michael Winters as the father conveys both the richness of who is was as well as the diminished man he is. Chip Wood as the AA member who has more than a little need to be in that group powerfully projects his hidden anguish.
Grief! Anger! Resentment! All of that and even more! Add alcoholism and a brother’s suicide to the mix, and you might think the playwright (Seattleite Katie Forgette) has larded this pudding with a few too many plot twists. She has, but she pulls off most of it.
It’s a story of human weakness, unfortunate mistakes, grief, and guilt. It reminds us to be kinder to others and to ourselves. This world premiere is well chosen for the season when Christian and Jewish holidays are at hand.
Through April 29, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206-781-9705 or taproottheatre.org)