|Cast of Sorry (Alabastro Photography)|
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through June 26, 2016
If you’re a certain age (middle), you might get pretty tired of all the plays focused on young people. Why the hell are there So Many Plays About Teenagers??? Well, Thalia’s Umbrella is giving you a welcome break with a wonderful script, Sorry, by Richard Nelson that presents a quad of middle-aged siblings dealing with their elderly uncle.
The three sisters, Barbara, Marian, and Jane Apple (Jeanne Paulsen, Macall Gordon, and Leslie Law) and brother Richard (Terry Edward Moore) have a difficult decision to put into effect. They have decided it’s time to move their beloved uncle Benjamin (William Hall, Jr.) into a facility, because it has become too much for Barbara to manage caring for him by herself.
Directed by Daniel Wilson, the actors are at once “normal” and accessible and human. They tease, revisit family history, discuss (Democratic) politics, and tell secrets that they’re not supposed to (“but it’s family!”). Paulsen’s Barbara dithers back and forth about finally moving Uncle out because her character is so clearly desperate for him to remember! Her yearning makes you want to leap up from your seat and go put your arm around her for comfort.
Benjamin was an actor and Hall gets a moment in the play to read a poem, as an entry into the facility’s “talent show” that shows how brilliant an actor he was. It’s also a moment to revel in Hall’s wonderful acting, as well. The contrast between that moment and the rest of the play demonstrates Hall’s range in a subtle way. He’s a master actor, and not seen as much as I’d like, besides occasional opportunities at Taproot and Thalia’s Umbrella.
Gordon and Law provide warm and humorous support, while Moore gets to display his unconscious privilege. There’s a very funny moment when his sisters ask him about a very female aspect and he starts to answer – as they knew he would, while they dissolve into gales of laughter.
Sure, dementia and the challenges it presents is not necessarily an enticing topic. Plays such as The Other Place, recently presented at Seattle Public, and The Father, newly Tony-awarded on Broadway, are beginning to present the issue more prominently on stage. Those plays use the first person position, the person losing his or her grasp of memory, to demonstrate what it might feel like. This play focuses on the family dealing with the issue and many of us have had to and will have to stand up to those challenges.
But aside from that, it’s a joy to see these veteran actors get to play together. While it might not entice younger audience members that much, it might be fun for them to see adults relating and reliving their family history. For younger actors, though, it’s a great study in naturalistic acting from folks who know what they’re doing.
Thalia’s Umbrella is a company that picks carefully and presents occasionally. They take the time to make their choices and have a solid history, now, of meticulously presented plays. Do go see this wonderful script and production.