With the rise of baby boomers comes increasing concerns over Social Security and Medicare cutbacks, outliving retirement nest eggs, slashed pensions and grown children moving back with mom and dad during their so-called Golden Years. This is the current climate for anyone who receives AARP brochures in the mail. While these grim realities will no doubt be buzzwords and speech fodder in the upcoming presidential debate, what isn’t discussed is the subtext between these strata of strains—the fear of living beyond one’s vitality.
The question this anxiety poses is tackled by playwright Henry Murray in a Greek structure that presents three stories with two main characters grappling with a mortal decision in three startling and devastating conclusions. Inspired by an elderly couple Murray observed years ago struggling to get their mail, the subject of aging in America and the stoic suffering it can bring is handled with profound care, reverence and without a whiff of patronizing sentimentality. This isn’t your grandmother’s doily laden puff piece about getting on in years gracefully. It is raw, vicious and multidimensional in its versatile form. Murray hits this one out of the ballpark.
Examining the shades of physical decline that includes a fear of falling, being unable to afford living expenses, being unable to drive, dependency, loneliness, and death takes on monumental proportions but Murray strikes an elegant balance in the various stages of three couples’ commitment to each other and ultimately, themselves. A pact between husband and wife lends itself naturally to differing results that are each powerfully climatic in their gripping portrayal even though it is the final scene whereby the actual act is hauntingly revealed.
In a town where growing old is treated like a crime, there isn’t a trace of vanity or self-consciousness in the Rogue Machine’s outstanding cast: Anne Gee Byrd, Allan Miller, Catherine Carlen, K Callan, Shelly Kurtz, and Nancy Linehan Charles. Byrd’s bittersweet marriage tinged by alcoholism is beautifully matched by Miller’s selfless enabling tenderness. Callan and Kurtz are perfectly delightful making their final act all the more overwhelming. Charles performance as an abandoned widow sizzles and crackles like a live wire and she commands the stage with riveting and explosive dynamism. Carlen has the most challenging role as she appears in all three relationships with slightly differing but similar roles. Her phone call monologue, while difficult, shines luminous as she maintains control without losing heart.
This is a play that is best served cold, without preconceived notions or misconceptions. To reveal more threatens to undermine the chilling effect and the joy in the surprising twists and turns both in the characters final choice and the structural interweaving. It is definitely one of Murray’s and the Rogue Machine’s finest aptly directed by John Perrin Flynn, Brett Aune and Hollace Starr. Treating each set of couples as its own play, these three seamlessly merge the virtual one-acts into a complete picture that takes three views into one mesmerizing object.
There is good reason why Murray’s play won the Woodward/Newman Drama Award and the 2012 Holland New Voices Award and with its further development at the Rogue Machine, more awards are sure to follow. For anyone who appreciates seasoned acting, fine directing and a brilliant script that is gut-wrenching as it is wryly humorous and savagely real, this is a show that lasts three times as long after the two curtain calls and is one impactful and vital production.
“Three Views of the Same Object”
Runs through Oct 28
5041 Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90019
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