Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Apple Family Cycle: Sorry and Regular Singing
Studio Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Unexplored Interior


Sarah Marshall, Elizabeth Pierotti, Rick Foucheux, Ted van Griethuysen, and Kimberly Schraf
Photo by Allie Dearie
Playwright Richard Nelson has the rare skill of creating three-dimensional portraits of people in a specific place and time and allowing both their individual and universal qualities to shine through. Studio Theatre in Washington is presenting the last two plays of Nelson's Apple Family Cycle, Sorry and Regular Singing, in repertory with the same sensitive cast and director, Serge Seiden, who worked on the earlier plays, That Hopey Changey Thing and Sweet and Sad, in 2013.

Nelson wrote each play to be performed in the same setting on a specific day in recent U.S. history, and each play premiered at New York's Public Theatre on the day when it takes place. Sorry is set in the early morning of Election Day 2012, as Barack Obama faces Mitt Romney for the presidency, and Regular Singing takes place on Nov. 22, 2013, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. (The earlier plays took place on Election Day 2010 and the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.)

The members of the Apple family of Rhinebeck, New York, filter the external stresses of life through the minutiae of their own experiences. In Sorry, rather than thinking about the election, the Apple siblings—teachers Barbara (Sarah Marshall) and Marian (Elizabeth Pierotti), nonfiction writer Jane (Kimberly Schraf), and lawyer Richard (Rich Foucheux)—are preparing to move their cognitively impaired uncle Benjamin (Ted van Griethuysen) from the family home where Barbara still lives, into a care facility. Regular Singing juxtaposes the family's memories of the Kennedy assassination with the impending (offstage) death of a relative.

The remarkable thing about Nelson's writing is the way subtext filters up through and between each line. The family members may be talking about obscure figures in U.S. history or the politics inherent in choral singing, but what is most apparent is the way the siblings treat each other, their shared and distinct personal histories, and the grievances they have tried to deny. Adding another level is the presence of Benjamin, who can no longer remember his acting career but whose voice is as rich and emotional as ever. (The fact that he reads a speech from The Cherry Orchard emphasizes the similarity in literary tone between Nelson and Chekhov—and Chekhov also wrote a play about three adult sisters and their brother.)

Seiden clearly knows and loves the characters he directs, led by van Griethuysen's masterful portrayal of a man doing his best to hold onto his self-awareness and Marshall's blend of pride and buried resentment. Each actor adds a different flavor: Pierotti, unrelenting sorrow (for reasons that gradually become clear); Schraf, a determination to make sense of things; Foucheux, the big fish visiting the small pond; and Jeremy Webb, guileless as Marian's younger boyfriend.

Studio Theatre
The Apple Family Cycle: Sorry and Regular Singing
October 28th - December 13th
By Richard Nelson
Barbara: Sarah Marshall
Marian: Elizabeth Pierotti
Jane: Kimberly Schraf
Benjamin: Ted van Griethuysen
Richard: Rick Foucheux
Tim: Jeremy Webb
Directed by Serge Seiden
Milton Theatre at The Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-332-3300 or www.studiotheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.


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