‘Sweet and Sad’ at Gloucester Stage

01Jun15

Through June 20, 2015

apple_family
The Apple Family moves to Gloucester Stage for Sweet and Sad, part 2 of Richard Nelson’s quartet of plays that explore major events or anniversaries through the eyes of an ordinary family. Part 1, That Hopey Changey Thing, was produced at Stoneham Theatre last winter.

If That Hopey Changey Thing, was more focused on politics, the second installment delves deeper into the personal and emotional lives of the six characters as they share a meal at the Rhinebeck, New York home of Barbara Apple (played by Karen MacDonald).

The members of Apple family have gathered for a community observance on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to take place that evening at a local school. In part, they’ve come to support Uncle Benjamin (Joel Colodner), who will be doing a reading at the event. A former theater and movie actor of some note, Benjamin now suffers from memory loss as the result of a heart attack.

apple_family_painBarbara’s sister Marian (Sarah Newhouse) has been living with her over the last few weeks as she tries to recover from a more immediate family tragedy of her own. Also joining them on this day are brother Richard (Bill Mootos), a Wall Street lawyer, sister Jane (Laura Latreille) and her younger boyfriend Tim (Paul Melendy) an out-of-work actor currently employed as a waiter.

As the family sits down for a meal before heading out to the event, undercurrents of pain and loss slowly bubble to the surface through their small talk, bickering and discussions. The audience is slowly brought into the fold as the family dances around delicate topics and sensibilities to eventually expose some raw wounds.

Some of the talk relates to politics. Barbara admits that she likes Elizabeth Warren. Richard is derided by his sisters for having left the work he was doing at the Attorney General’s office for a private Wall Street practice where he now serves “rich clients.” Even more unforgiveable, Richard watches Fox News.

Eventually, we learn the real reason for Marian’s fragile emotional state, and it’s not just the anniversary of 9/11.

sweet_sad_uncleThe fact that Uncle Benjamin must be continually reminded that he is to do a reading later at the 9/11 observance underscores the themes of memory and loss. Why is it important to remember? How should we memorialize those lost and when is it OK to let go?

Crystal Tiala’s set design also reflects themes of pain and loss, such as the overlapping picture frames along the set’s back wall. The frames that would normally hold images of cherished people and places are all empty, each instead framing a dark void.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some light, even funny moments, as there usually are when families gather, along with the emotionally poignant ones.

This cast has committed to all four plays in the series, which will alternate between Gloucester Stage and Stoneham Theatre.

sweet_sad_readingStoneham Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Weylin Symes is directing all four plays with the same design team and cast. It’s clear that this group of talented theater people has already formed a bond that comes from the unique experience of reuniting periodically in much the same way as families do.

And don’t worry if you didn’t see the first installment, That Hopey Changey Thing. While it may help if you’ve seen the first play, you’ll have no trouble catching up if you haven’t. Sweet and Sad stands just fine on its own.

Sweet and Sad, which runs through June 20, is a worthy opening production for Gloucester Stage Company’s expanded 36th Season.

Purchase tickets online
or phone 978-281-4433. The Gloucester Stage Company is located at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA.

[Sweet and Sad, by Richard Nelson. Directed by Weylin Symes. Scenic Design, Crystal Tiala. Costume Design, Gail Astrid Buckley. Lighting Design, Russ Swift. Sound Design, David Wilson. Stage Manager, Marsha Smith.]

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