Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Salt, Root, and Roe
Upstream Theater / Stages Repertory Theatre, Houston
Review by Richard T. Green

Amy Loui, Donna Weinsting, and Sally Edmundson
Photo by ProPhotoSTL
Even the backdrop of the sky seems dreamy and watermarked in the American premiere of Tim Price's Salt, Root, and Roe. A vague, moiré polarization fixes the story somewhere between the distant clouds and the infinite. This lovely production is staged by director Kenn McLaughlin (with scenic design by Michael Heil) in a joint production partnering Upstream Theater with the Stages Repertory Theatre of Houston, first at the Kranzberg Arts Center. The whole show teeters whimsically on edge, between windswept cottages and the Welsh magic of the sea. It's wonderful, though complicated by our horrifying need of legends.

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 or in Texas,

Iola Hughes: Donna Weinsting*
Anest Owen: Sally Edmundson*
Menna Hopkins: Amy Loui*
Gareth Rowlands: Eric Dean White*

Direction, Design, and Technical Crew:
Director: Kenn McLaughlin
Scenic Design: Michael Heil***
Costume Design: Michele Friedman Siler
Lighting Design: Steve Carmichael
Sound Design/Composer: Anthony Barilla
Prop Design: Rachel Tibbetts
Wig Designer: Lucy Garlich
Scenic Artist: Erin Knadler
Dialect Coach: Teresa Doggett
Graphic Artist: Sleepy Kitty
Production Manager: Elizabeth Lund
Production Stage Manager: Patrick Siler*
Assistant Stage Manager: Ellen Fields**
Technical Director: Joseph M. Novak
Board Operator: Paige Spizzo
Wardrobe: Laila Alvarado
Master Electrician: Tony Anselmo
House Manager & Box Office: Monica Roscoe
Social Media: Kathy Tate
Production Photographer: Peter Wochniak
Publicity & Marketing: Marla Stoker

* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association

** Denotes Candidate for Membership, Actors Equity Association

*** Denotes Member of United Scenic Artists Local 829