Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Escaped Alone
Yale Repertory Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol

Also see Fred's recent review of The Hot Wing King

Mary Lou Rosato, Sandra Shipley, Rita Wolf,
and LaTonya Borsay

Photo by Joan Marcus
Escaped Alone, at Yale Repertory Theatre through March 30th, is not especially enjoyable, but that is the very idea of Caryl Churchill's 55-minute play. A superb group of designers have combined to create jolting yet stunning production effects for a setting which is, initially, perfectly tame.

It all begins on a lovely, summer afternoon in England amid a sweet array of houseplants which seem to have been transported outside by Sally (Sandra Shipley), whose garden this is. Vi (Mary Lou Rosato) and Lena (Rita Wolf) have joined their friend for tea. Mrs. Jarrett (LaTonya Borsay) comes along and sits in a fourth chair. They are friendly and happy to speak with one another until a quantum blast literally shakes them and everyone watching the proceedings. It feels as if the house seats are quivering. Congratulations to the following individuals: Lia Tubiana, who created the set; Stephen Strawbridge for blinding, penetrating lighting on either side of the stage; Shawn Lovell-Boyle for mesmerizing projections; and Liam Bellman-Sharpe for music. To call the first of many of these blasts jarring would be to seriously understate. Afterward, there is a return to normal, which means talking about children, grandchildren, other relatives, stores in town, and more.

Sally, the hostess, is terribly fearful of cats and this can become obsessive so that, for example, she worries that cats will enter her home at night. This phobia has a grip upon Sally. Lena is anxiety ridden when it comes to getting out and about, so she is, more or less, stuck. Vi murdered her husband in her kitchen (using a knife) and is thus estranged from her son. The three women are pleased to be with one another and most welcoming to Mrs. Jarrett as well.

Churchill is a revolutionary playwright (with works such as Top Girls and Cloud 9 to her name), and for Escaped Alone she furnishes multiple shattering explosions of noise, light, sound and, yes, horror. Through visual display impossible to ignore, the audience will experience drowning rains, intense flooding, threatening fires, earthquake aftermath and, really, potential demise of the planet. All the while, Mrs. Jarrett steps forward to deliver monologues while the audience is consumed with the impact of the horrific sensory scene. Call all of this calamitous, apocalyptic, dystopian, excruciatingly negative, torrentially devastating–you choose. It is all part of what Mrs. Jarrett says is rage.

Maybe Churchill depicts an inner protected world as delineated by older women sitting about and chatting amid flourishing plants on a beautiful blue-sky day and juxtaposes that scenario with one of unimaginable volcanic-like eruption. Director Liz Diamond is back to work with the diametrically conflicting or incompatible components. Cast members and creative individuals for this show are exemplary.

One sequence lends a bit of levity to the short (even if it might not seem so) theatre piece. The entire cast combines to sing, a cappella, Ray Charles's "Hit the Road Jack" and that, my friends, lifts spirits all around. The performers appear to be having a great time with this and why not? It's an opportunity for them to get up, move, and stretch their lungs and legs while displaying versatility.

Yale Rep has decided to go full throttle with special effects to accentuate Churchill's prophetic pronouncements that the universe is doomed to destruction. The playwright might be trying to say that, quite literally, some are able to sit comfortably on a back patio while, in reality, darkest days and nights loom for the cosmos. The series of exclamatory, violent multi-dimensional scenes is almost too much–which might be the author's contention, which director Diamond drives home with this production. It's proactive theater for sure and anything but lightly entertaining. Should you attend, fasten a figurative seatbelt around you before this sometimes shattering presentation begins.

Escaped Alone runs through March 30, 2024, at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven CT. For tickets and information, please call 203-432-1234 or visit