Saturday, February 2, 2019

Four Last Things—Corrib Theatre—SE Portland



      “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”

    This powerful drama is written by Lisa Tierney Keogh and directed by Gemma Whelan (Founding Artistic Director of Corrib).  It is playing at the New Expressive Works space, 810 SE Belmont St., through February 24th.  For more information, go to their site at www.corribtheatre.org

    The above title is borrowed from a short story (and one-act play) by Conrad Akien, in which a young boy gradually slips into his own private world, surrounded by the peace and quite of snow.  I was reminded of this story while watching the play.  The world now is a much more complex place, brought about, in part, by the electronic jungle we so highly treasured.  Young people, in particular, are highly susceptible to this alternate universe, in which one encounters cyber-bullying, sex traffickers, gossip, “fake news,” deceptive advertising, et. al., aimed to lead some young, maturing minds to slip into an abyss that, without professional help, one may drown in.  This cyber-jungle is, I believe, a contributing factor in drawing people into a “manufactured” world.

    The causes of mental illness are as numerous as there are people who have it.  It is a disease which can be treated.  People dealing with it should never be afraid to reach out to professionals.  They should also never be stigmatized because they are ill, admitting there may be a problem and communication it unashamedly to loved ones is a key to recovery.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” should never be one’s mantra.  Sinking beneath the “snow,” one may freeze, so look for the warming sunlight.

    Jane (Alexandria Casteele) is a young girl who grew up on a farm.  Her best friend is Bob, the farm dog (Jacklyn Maddux), who seems to understand her best.  Bob is always there to comfort her, play games, be told secrets to, and just hang around with.  She has a brother but, in time, they grow apart.  She has a boyfriend but she also distances herself from that relationship, too.  Even her father, Brendan (Ted Rooney), dearly loves her but is unable to show it.  The silence, “snow,” seems to be closing in on her.  How is this isolation to end?!

    I’ve only given you a snippet of this story because you really need to see/hear it for yourselves.  The characters all talk past each other, narrating their tales but never actually talking directly to each other, which shows the isolation of Jane and her world.  The setting is sparse, which also gives the sense of being removed from the world which surrounds her.  This sad tale builds slowly, overtaking the senses, and graduates to an intensity which is gut-wrenching.  You will also find yourself crying out to her, “Stay!” 

    It is a tale the author obviously is invested in, and in which director Whelan has thoroughly and accurately presented.  The cast is perfect for their roles and Casteele is powerful in the lead.  She is eerily believable as a young girl trapped in unfamiliar surroundings, perhaps, “a stranger in a strange land.”

    I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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