Wednesday, October 24, 2018

No Rest for the Weary

The Resting Place

James Carpenter as Mitch (Jennifer Reiley)
World Premiere
By Ashlin Halfnight
Directed by Jessica Holt

Magic Theatre
Until Nov 4, 2018

Perhaps you can recall a news story that has appalled you so much that you ask, “what kind of monster could do such a thing?” Then try to imagine that the monster has a family who, having had nothing to do with the heinous act, is nevertheless left to suffer the repercussions of shame, grief, loss, and love.

Such is the premise of The Resting Place, an emotional pressure chamber of a play that explores how members of a middle-class family, the Jacksons, each cope with the sudden tragedy of a family member who has committed suicide in the wake of public exposure of his repeated acts of pedophilic abuse.

Martha Brigham and Emilie Talbot (Jennifer Reiley)
Director Jessica Holt brings each character forward in his or her own struggle as they hide from the press and public in their home. Annie (Martha Brigham) has rushed home from a self-care retreat to be with the family and to mourn her older brother Travis. Although she has heard the “facts” of her brother’s behavior, she is intent on presenting the Travis that she thought she knew and loved: the decent son, fun-loving brother, and a good person. Her unconditional optimism seems out of place in the atmosphere of grief, anger, fear, sadness that has seized the rest of her family. Her mother Angela (Emilie Talbot) has numbed herself with alcohol into a state of detachment that could be mistaken for calmness. Her father Mitch (James Carpenter, in a volcanic performance) implodes with grief as he explodes with rage at his daughter’s obliviousness, and the arguments that ensue are visceral and disturbing. Macy (Emily Radosevich), Annie’s slightly younger sister, has had more practice holding on to her own sanity and provides some emotional balance to the chaos. Also affected is Liam, Travis’s former lover who was the last person to have heard from him.

Intent on planning a memorial service, Annie wants to creates a photo board of photos as if assembling a jigsaw puzzle of the Travis she remembers...but the the biggest piece is missing: how Travis has hurt and traumatized several boys. When Mitch brings home Charles, one of Travis’s victims who is now trying to piece his life together, Annie cannot bear listening and continues in her imbalanced denial.

James Carpenter, Emilie Talbot, Emily Radosevich, Martha Brigham (Jennifer Reiley)
In an abrupt set change, the rear wall collapses, furniture is moved off stage, and a simple podium is moved front and center as we, the audience, find ourselves uneasily attending the memorial service for Travis. As Annie begins her halting eulogy to her brother, she notices that Charles is taking a seat among the attendees. Why? Was Charles just curious, or was he forgiving his abuser? We too wonder why we are there. Annie is at last unnerved by the epiphany of the reality of what her brother did...are some acts irredeemably horrible? When she falls apart and shifts her tone, it is not convincing, however; her passionate conviction too easily dissolves into futile and helpless resignation. Nevertheless, she speaks her doubt to the listeners, and asks people to leave, knowing that there is no real place to escape or rest from the reality.

The Resting Place could have been tightened in many areas, and some of the characters’ actions seemed either pat or incongruous. Nevertheless, the swirl of complex emotions is intense, creating a visceral experience that will be remembered after the words echo away. Despite the connections in our life, how we deal with tragedy is personal and very lonely.



The Resting Place

CAST
James Carpenter - Mitch
Emilie Talbot - Angela
Emily Radosevich - Macy
Martha Brigham - Annie
Wiley Naman Strasser -  Liam
Andrew LeBuhn - Charles

CREATIVE TEAM
Edward T. Morris - Scenic Design
Sara Huddleston - Sound Design
Shelby-Lio Feeney - Costume Design
Wen-Ling Liao - Lighting Design

Dates: October 10 – November 4, 2018
Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd., Building D, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123

Tickets: Online: MagicTheatre.org
Phone: (415) 441-8822

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