The times they are a changin' at Delaware Theater Company. Bud Martin, the new Producing Artistic Director, has transfused the 3 decades old institution with game changing steroids.
Aisle Say has always been impressed when one such as Al Pacino consistently works on refining his craft in New York live theatre. Both motion pictures and tv acting is easy. As Peter Strauss, the star of DTC's “The Outgoing Tide” commented to me after a packed house opening last Saturday, ...”in live theatre you're out there naked for an hour and half. You mess up, and everybody knows it.”
(Strauss and Nick Nolte starred in the provocative mini series “Rich Man, Poor Man” in the '70's)
.While Michael Learned of “The Waltons” fame may be the biggest name of the 3 person show, this is Strauss' show playing Gunner, a husband and father who has hatched an unorthodox plan to secure his family's future. The idea is met with much consternation by his wife (Peg) and grown son, Jack (Ian Lithgow).
Playwright – and Philadelphia native – Bruce Graham has wonderfully articulated a brutal dilemma of growing old. It is impossible to believe that the plot did not resonate profoundly with the audience. Gunner is at early stage dementia (although Strauss emphasized to me this could be any ailment...any disease.)
Interspersing dark humor with pathos, one is not sure where we are headed in Act 1. The playwright's conceit was to switch scenes decades back to create familiarity with the family dynamic. Strauss, for example, went from a young father to a crotchety old man with Alzheimers. Peg was always the over protective mother.
Jack (Lithgow) was an only child of a sarcastic, teasing and rough-edged father. The naïve son believed everything Dad said.
Jack: Why didn't I have a brother or a sister?
Gunner: You weren't the only kid. You were the only one we kept. We sold your two brothers to the circus. (At that point, Jack, as a child, starts crying).
Peg wants to put Gunner in an assisted living facility. After 50 years of marriage, she is weary now of his forgetfulness and doesn't feel she can properly care for him. “We could do a murder-suicide, but he would probably forget to shoot himself!”
Gunner will have none of the assisted living idea, PERIOD. He waxes on the reason for living...”If I don't know you, what's the point?”
Gunner has a plan to tie up loose ends. He will commit suicide so that the family can collect double indemnity life insurance. Peg is outraged, but he demands her blessing before he can go forward in his last dinghy ride with his bottle of scotch.
Are the ends tied? I will leave that for the future audiences. This is a difficult play, gut-wrenching and supremely acted.
Note to director: as a father who at times has had his own strained relations with his son, boy... would I love to see a hug in the final scene.
Through October 28 DelawareTheatre.org 302.594.1100
Next up is “A Christimas Carol”, then “Boeing Boeing” directed by consummate actor/director of UD Rep Ensemble Steve Tague. DTC's first full blown Broadway musical, “South Pacific” ends the season, directed by Bud Martin and choreographed by our local legend, Sonny Leo.