Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Women of Lockerbie
Then again, sometimes the madness comes crashing down from the sky, as we see in Deborah Brevoort's 2001 play, The Women of Lockerbie, about the terrorist bombing of a 747 jumbo jet over Scotland in 1988. Director Pamela Reckamp melds the modern stage together with the ancient, with an outstanding cast in this 90-minute drama at The Chapel on Alexander through November 23.
The "Greek chorus" is five members of the local female townspeople, trying to prevent a second grotesque event, seven years after the first. The terror attack, using a suitcase bomb, rained down bodies and clothing and plane wreckage over Lockerbie, Scotland, just days before Christmas. Now, in 1995, the U.S. State Department wants to burn the personal remains, which had been stored and catalogued in a nearby warehouse.
The madness in the story is engrossing and even subtly grand, centering on the fictional character of Madeline Livingston, played by Margeau Baue Steinau. Mrs. Livingston is an American mother whose college-aged son was killed in the explosion. But his body vanished in the blast, and she's had nothing to resolve her sorrow since then. A vacuum of unresolved grief, like the Bernoulli effect that carries planes aloft, raises Ms. Steinau to unexpected heights on stage. Poetic, light echoes of the antique acting style in her performance, and even a physical scourging, harmonize with modern madness. The partnership of epochal style is also heightened by the hand-signing choreography of a gentle women's chorus, following a yearly memorial, upon the winter solstice.
David Wassilak plays Madeline's husband Bill: elegant and urbane, but ultimately as heartbroken as she, in the moment where they finally bridge their gap near the end. Till that moment, Madeline seems to be more married to an unresolvable grief. Bill's description of returning their son's gifts to the mall after Christmas 1988 has a dour Shakespearean rhythm and depth in Mr. Wassilak's interpretation. And yet the play is not overwhelmingly darka kind of lyrical beauty lifts the story, thanks to the Athenian purity of each actor's heart. And halfway through, there's also a very successful comedy scene, as one of the women (played with great rustic charm by Teresa Doggett) conspires with the other towns-women until she's caught by her State Department boss, played with a padded belly and a light comic touch by Michael Cassidy Flynn.
The chorus is composed of highly competent actresses, each of whom has essayed far more difficult roles than these. But focus and intelligence emerge as their collective strength. Leslie Wobbe plays Olive with a fiery denunciation of all things American; ultra-dry Sarajane Alverson melts completely into a gracious, meditative state as "Woman 1 Intellect"; Kim Furlow surrenders to an entirely spiritual plane as "Woman 2 Emotion"; and Jennifer Theby-Quinn, as "Woman 3 Memory," saves her keen wit for sudden moments of recognition, within the group on stage.
You could do this show without them, but it would be far below this level of perfection.
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble's The Women of Lockerbie runs through November 23, 2019, at the Chapel on Alexander, 6238 Alexander Drive, just south of Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.slightlyoff.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):