Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Salt, Root, and Roe
A pair of elderly twin sisters, Iola and Anest (Donna Weinsting and Sally Edmundson), have disappeared, sending Anest's daughter into a panic. Amy Loui is Menna, the daughter visiting from town, and she has called her policeman friend Gareth, played by Eric Dean White, to find the missing septuagenarian twins. All of the actors are excellent, but Ms. Weinsting draws special mention: she's best known for comedy, but her rarely seen dramatic characters are always especially stunning. And perhaps, playing opposite Ms. Edmundson (a splendid actress from Houston), she's found an equal and a contemporary to support her on stage, and help her reach these amazing heights in performance. I feel like Ms. Edmundson has so much presence, that perhaps it reminds Ms. Weinsting of how great she can be, herself. It's the best thing I've ever seen her do. In the first scene of Salt, Root, and Roe Gareth finds an old board game called "Guess Who" to calm Menna down, while they wait for bad news about the older women.
That children's game seems prescient, kicking off the 90-minute play from the year 2011. Like "20 Questions," each "Guess Who" player must identify a face on a card, which they cannot see, by asking (in this homemade variation) what that character cannot do. Can the face on the card get a mortgage from a bank? Can they parallel park? The question and answer game sets a framework for the declining pair, Iola and Anest, who finally do turn up: diminished, but irreducible, in the depth of their character, in a relationship that's ungraciously winding down.
The impending tragedy of death, of losing a twin sister, serves mostly as a hazy background for all the fussy, irascible comedy on stage, and for the occasional ugly, violent turn as well. It's also, in the retelling, a story about giving up a part of your identity, whether you have a twin or not, and finding a way to say goodbye to half your self. Still, you might want to brush up on your Dylan Thomas before agreeing to picnic on the beach with them, as time holds them green and dying. Ms. Weinsting is stark, and madder by measures; and Ms. Edmundson, gaunt and hilarious in a relationship built on fantastical stories, now searching for a rhyming way to end.
It homes right in on it, too: everything is lost, but nothing is taken away; a life-long mystery is solved; a perfect union kept intact; and glowering characters meet glowering fate, all with a roar like the sea.
Salt, Root, and Roe, through May 12, 2019, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand, St. Louis MO. The production is scheduled to move to Houston in October, 2019. For more information visit www.upstreamtheater.org or in Texas, www.stagestheatre.com.
Direction, Design, and Technical Crew:
* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association
** Denotes Candidate for Membership, Actors Equity Association
*** Denotes Member of United Scenic Artists Local 829