Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Quality of Life
Reaching Through the Dark Fog of Grief
Mother Road Theatre Company
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Dean's review of Caesar's Blood, Wally's review of Terra Nova and Stephanie's review of The Graduate


Julia Thudium, Kristin Hansen, Tom Schuch, and
Vic Browder

Photo by Kaleidosoul (Denise Husted)
Grief is more than an emotion. It can grow into a state of being, a prolonged condition of living that affects all perceptions and interactions with others. The Quality of Life, a 2007 play by Jane Anderson, shows two aging baby boomer couples struggling with the deepest grief—Bill (Vic Browder) and Dinah (Julia Thudium) have lost their daughter. Dinah's cousin Jeannette (Kristin Hansen) is suffering through her husband Neil's (Tom Schuch) late-stage terminal cancer.

The way each couple copes with grief plays out in dramatic emotional conflict when the two couples get together at Neil and Jeanette's home in the hills of northern California. Their home has been burned down by a wildfire and they are now living in a hut on the scorched ground. Bill and Dinah are visiting from the Midwest to essentially say goodbye to Neil. They are shelled-shocked by the recent loss of their daughter in a brutal murder.

Bill and Dinah are conservative Christians and attempt to lend religious comfort to Neil and Jeanette. But the Californians have rejected traditional religion for an earthy spirituality. The couples manage to make nice about their differences until Neil reveals he has decided to end his suffering with a planned suicide that will occur following a goodbye party for friends. The straight-laced Bill is horrified at this blasphemous sin. Dinah is sympathetic to the idea until she learns that Jeannette plans to join Neil in a suicide pact. Jeanette can't accept the notion of grieving over Neil for the rest of her life.

Bill is also uncomfortable with Neil's use of marijuana to ease the pain. Dinah, however, is supportive, deciding to imbibe with Neil when Bill is away. This is one of the small fissures we begin to see in Bill and Dinah's marriage as the anger and desperation of grief eats away at their bond.

That's the set-up as the drama plays out, each couple finding the other's path of grief unfathomable, each couple rejecting the other couple's deepest beliefs outright. And yet, the four characters struggle to find way to reach across the dark chasm.

Director David Sinkus does an excellent job with this emotional minefield. First and foremost is his casting, bringing together some of Albuquerque's top actors. Browder is superb as the edgy and stiff Bill. He also created the fascinating set with Sinkus. The details in the set are exquisite. The always wonderful Hansen delivers Jeannette as a powerful life force. Schuch as Neil and Thudium as Dinah both offer nuanced performances that are sweetly tender without being the least sentimental. Terrific production.

The Quality of Life, written by Jane Anderson and directed by David Sinkus and produced by the Mother Road Theatre Company, runs through April 10, 2016. Performances are on Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM, Sunday performance are at 2:00 pm. Performances are held at the Keshet Center of the Arts at 4121 Cutler Ave. NE General admission is $22, seniors (62 and over) are $22, and student are $15. You can buy tickets online at motherroad.org or by calling 505-243-0596.


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