Apples to Apples

01Mar16

“Sorry” continues the Apple family saga at Stoneham Theatre

Sarah Newhouse,Joel Colodner,Bill Mootos,Karen MacDonald,Laura Latreille
Memory, like family, is about connections. And Sorry, currently on stage at Stoneham Theatre, is about both.

Sorry is part 3 of Richard Nelson’s series, “The Apple Family Plays.” (The first in the cycle, “That Hopey Changey Thing,” was produced by Stoneham Theatre last year. Gloucester Stage mounted the second play, “Sweet and Sad,” last summer.)

It’s important to stress that each play, including Sorry, stands just fine on its own, so even if you haven’t seen the first two, there’s no reason not to see this one.

Billed as “a family drama,” Sorry deals heavily with family connections. But the play is also about a different type of connection: the connections between synapses in the brain that form memory – and what happens to individuals and families when those connections fail.

The Apple Family adult siblings have once again gathered at sister Barbara’s Rhinebeck, New York home. Barbara (played by Karen MacDonald) has been providing care in her home for Uncle Benjamin (Joel Colodner). Benjamin was once a noted stage and screen actor, but since a major heart attack years ago, has suffered from a form of dementia.

Joel Colodner,Karen MacDonald 2Uncle Benjamin’s behavior has become more erratic and disturbing of late, and through her guilt and mixed feelings, Barbara knows that she can no longer care for her uncle. The siblings have gathered to provide support on the day that Benjamin is to be delivered to a nursing home.

Since the tragic suicide of her teenage daughter, sister Marian (Sarah Newhouse) has also been staying with Barbara and helping out with Benjamin. Sister Jane (Laura Latreille) has also arrived in town and as the play opens brother Richard (Bill Mootos) makes his appearance.

While the Apples are certainly an upper middle class family, their joys and sorrows are every family’s. Much of the play consists of family members sitting around Barbara’s dining room table in the early morning hours of the day that Benjamin is to go to the nursing home.

They spend the morning doing what families do when they get together: reminiscing, laughing and arguing over things important and unimportant – especially politics. The play is set on Election Day 2012. It’s evident that every member of this liberal clan plans to vote for Barack Obama, with the possible exception of Richard, a lawyer who has in the past worked for (gasp) Republicans.

Bill Mootos,Karen MacDonald,Laura LatreilleThe play’s most poignant moments are when the siblings are struggling with the difficult decisions related to Uncle Benjamin’s care. There isn’t a family that hasn’t been there, and many will find the Apple family’s pain heartbreakingly familiar.

Sorry is a completely naturalistic play. Director Weylin Symes has worked hard to honor playwright Richard Nelson’s ambition “to put characters in a room with an audience who can watch them be.” And that is probably the best way to describe Sorry. We feel like we are watching real life. And like real life, there are no easy answers or grand resolutions. What happens, happens. And then things go on – just like real life.

The performances in Sorry are superb across the board. The same actors have now done three of the Apple Family Plays, and they are clearly as comfortable with one another as they are with their characters. Their trust in each other and the power of the play is evident.

Nelson has said that his plays are “about the need to talk, the need to listen, the need for theater and the need to be in the same room together.”

All true. And if you go see this play, you won’t be sorry.

Sorry, runs through March 13 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Purchase tickets online or phone 781-279-2200.

[SORRY, by Richard Nelson. Directed by Weylin Symes. Scenic Design, Crystal Tiala. Lighting Design, Jeff Adelberg. Costume Design, Gail Astrid Buckley. Sound Design by David Wilson. Props Master, Brendan Conroy. Production Stage Manager, Rachel Politicare.]

Photos by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

[This review originally appeared in the February 29, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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