Written by William Donnelly, the plot focuses upon Edward Nolan (David Adkins) and Rebecca Padgett (Jurian Hughes). They were once married but divorced ages ago. Quite recently, their daughter, a young woman called Susannah or Suki, committed suicide, having evidently grappled with mental illness. The memorial service has just concluded. When the play begins, Edward is sitting at a table in a bar with Rebecca's current husband, Roger (James Lloyd Reynolds). As the plot unfolds, Rebecca and her former husband, whom she calls Teddy, revisit relationshipswith one anotherand with their daughter.
The third person in the mix, Roger (who is British), is important as is the recollection of Suki. While Rebecca seems to have a solid enough second marriage, Teddy has moved in and out of relationships. Rebecca and Teddy find that they were, and moreover are not, completely incompatible. That leads to complication and Donnelly has fashioned this with thought.
Director Kyle Fabel has made some wise and interesting choices. Oftentimes, Rebecca and Teddy face one another during conversation. Occasionally, however, they might address the audience even if the dialogue is directed toward one another.
During different intervals, Rebecca clears a speck of food off each man's face. Not surprisingly, she is familiar with both of them.
One might expect No Wake to be morose or depressing. In actuality, it is a most inviting play. The actors, persuasive as they explore, are fully in each moment. Fabel's direction and Campbell Baird's sparse set encourage the theatergoer to gravitate forward. Never is there a hint of a fourth wall separating the stage from those in the house observing. It is natural to identify with the characters.
No Wake is accessible, and Donnelly's scripting makes sense. For example, the two men have a fist fight. But, it's awfully lamemore of a tussle between two people who, struggling with tension, get into it. Well done.
Detailed performance informs and elevates this play. Jurian Hughes, by trade, is both a yoga teacher and actor. She surely captures Rebecca's inner anxiety as she recollects difficult times with her now deceased daughter. When she massages her foot, she proceeds with the expertise of one who is acquainted with the human body. David Atkins' Edward is complex: unable to maintain a successful relationship with a woman, he remains engaging and sympathetic. The reference to his current girlfriend, too, is important. James Lloyd Reynolds, not the primary focus of attention, provides another dimension and his is not a simple character.
Donnelly writes with sincerity, feeling, and also a welcome sense of humor. The production is not grim yet one leaves the theater thinking about ramifications and implications. It brought to mind some lasting television series as thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and Once and Again, which were the work of Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. These men crafted conversation among adults which was smart and emotional. Donnelly, too, writes penetrating dialogue: his people are caught and they most cope with a heart-wrenching tragedy.
No Wake takes a performance break and will next be shown at the Unicorn Theatre as part of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on September 30th, continuing through October 24th. For schedule specifics and tickets, call (413) 298-5576 or visit berkshiretheatre.org.