How do we handle loss? How do we move on – and how do we know when it’s done (is it ever really done?) and we’re actually ready to move on? Not the lightest of themes – but in Carey Crim’s Morning After Grace, in a New England premiere at Shakespeare & Company, moving on through loss is treated with kindness, humor, and lots of love.
Abigail (Corinna May) wakes up on Angus’s (Steven Barkheimer) couch after a night spent together; they met at a funeral and spent the evening skinny-dipping and drinking, much to her surprise and delight. She thinks she might have finally met a good man, but things get complicated once he wakes up. Ollie (Kevin Vavasseur), one of Angus’s neighbors and a former client of Abigail’s, visits, and the trio spend an afternoon dealing with the ups and downs of life in their retirement community, working out differences and helping each other through their problems.
Barkheimer’s work here is superb; his Angus has so much life, energy, humor and pathos. He can say so much with just a facial expression or catch in his voice. His interactions with May are wonderful; their give-and-take is some of the best work in the production. May’s work here is so strong; she goes from lovestruck to world-weary to motherly to practical from beat to beat without losing a step, and it’s a joy to watch her. Vavasseur is kind and heartbreaking; the audience grew to love him over the course of the production, and rightfully so. With a combination of these actors, the writing and the direction, this cast brought us three fully formed people, so believable we could run into them in our lives at any time, and that kind of realism is hard to find in theater.
Patrick Brennan’s set design is beautiful – such a bright, sunny space, perfect for a Florida retirement community, with plenty of room for the actors to play. James W. Bilnoski’s lighting design is a treat – slowly emulating a Florida sunset, palm trees in the distance. Even something as simple as the colors of the clothes in the closet or the knick-knacks on the coffee table has been planned out with an eye for detail. Everything has been done to make this as realistic as possible, and everything works perfectly.
Director Regge Life has taken much care and time with this production; it’s a beautifully written and evocative piece, and he’s allowed it to breathe, letting it take the time it needs to unfold and evolve naturally. Nothing big happens here; this isn’t a show with a huge reveal – and sometimes that’s just what’s needed, a palate cleanser, a beautiful vignette about life and those who live it. It’s a calm, quiet voice just when it’s needed and day-to-day life at its finest.
“Morning After Grace”; Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, MA; through July 15; $65-$18.75; Run time: 2 hours and 5 minutes with a 10-minute intermission; (413) 637-3353; http://www.shakespeare.org/