by Daniel Talbott
Directed by Pedro Pascal
Featuring Kathryn Erbe, Noah Galvin, Seth Numrich, Libby Woodbridge
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place
January 26, 2012 — February 29, 2012
production web site
Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 28, 2012
- “It was an accident. He just … stopped.”
- “I always wanted magic to be real.”
On a quiet mountain set that evokes Twin Peaks and murder mysteries and intrepid Hardy Boy adventures, we experience in Yosemite an often funny, ultimately chilling family drama. A task is set (a hole to be dug whose purpose we don’t understand for some time), many questions arise, siblings bicker, family sorrows unearthed. In this play of little action yet much dramatic back story, lifetimes are lived. Parsimonious story telling, evocative pacing, shards of disintegrating individual lives of a family in need.
Older brother Jake (Seth Numrich) digs and yells and takes a piss upstage. Younger brother Jer (Noah Galvin) is solemn yet present and occasionally takes a parcel from his sister Ruby (Libby Woodbridge), who cradles the initially mysterious package through most of the play. Why the hole, where is mom, what is in the garbage bag, why must the hole be deep, why do they talk about packages of clothes and food from the church and their memories of dad? When mom Julie (Kathryn Erbe) finally emerges for a portion of the play — the children are alone at beginning and end — she tries to charm for a while, then probe, then confront, and ultimately comfort her quietly grieving children. The reasons for their grief are uncovered to a point but not explained in excruciating detail. Much is left unanswered, and this is enough for me. The exposition is well-paced and the performances balanced and layered (though Numrich’s Jake is a rather extreme blustery adolescent boy for much of the time).
Director Pedro Pascal creates a world of quiet spaces. Set designer Raul Abrego evokes a frosted frozen high elevation treed space with verisimilitude. Joel Moritz‘s lighting design creates shadows and moments of illumination that charm.
Guns and depression and dire life events and siblings who by play’s end you actually believe will make it through. A world of action and resignation, that resolves with hope. Rather than too little happening, we experience the events of the world in the context of a single impoverished family on the little Rattlestick stage. And delicious disturbing dramatic questions remain.
© Martha Wade Steketee (January 30, 2012)