Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see David's review of Sex with Strangers
Ulysses (Jeffrey Grover) is a cowboy poet. He published several books of poetry before Emma (Derdriu Ring), his wife, left him more than 20 years ago. She left in the night taking with her their son, Sam. Ulysses brags that he spends most of his time nude. As the play opens he's nude except for an apron he wears when he's cooking. A flash of his bare backside evoked plenty of unnecessary girlish giggles from some audience members.
Emma has carefully protected Sam from any knowledge of his father or any opportunity to see him. In those 20 years apart, they changed. Ulysses lost his muse and was able to write only one poem. His health went downhill. He now wears an oxygen tank on his back and gets oxygen through tubes running to his nose. Most would say he's too young for death. Yet ...
Emma had a marriage after she left Ulysses. And, once again, in the middle of the night, she left her husband. Perhaps because she had no place to go, she drove to Ulysses' home. For about 100 minutes (no intermission), they talk about the past and speculate about the future. Each has trouble accepting any guilt for the failure of their marriage. Yet, interestingly enough, they seem to be in love with each other. She has brought bags of groceries with her and methodically empties the bags and fills the kitchen cabinets. She knows he has no money, so she brought plenty of money with her, too.
The set realistically resembles a trailer anchored in a trailer park. One wall is removed from the trailer, which allows the audience to look in on the action. The realism of the set establishes the realistic tone of the production.
Working with a two-character format is difficult for all concerned. Director Sean Derry manages to make the movement easy and natural and has helped the actors evoke characters who have a faithfulness to the script; they let the characters flow from their minds and bodies.
Jeffrey Grover and Derdriu Ring have worked together beforein fact, they have played a married couple before. They have an easy familiarity with each other evoking an aura of a couple that has been married a long, long time.
Much of the realistic tone comes from Sharr White's script. White's dialogue moves smoothly, without discordant notes. Ulysses is a poet and occasionally he speaks in a poetic style. Emma was a businesswoman (she and her ex-husband ran a dry-cleaning business). She is more abrupt and no-nonsense in her dialogue and her brisk style. Yet, beneath what appears to be a hardened façade, Emma is a loving, caring woman.
White writes tight scriptsfew characters and brief dialogue. Everything that can be cut has been cut. In Annapurna his style provides a perfect vehicle for the actors and a near-perfect evening in the theater for the audience.
Annapurna runs through November 19, 2016, at none too fragile theater in the Bricco Pub, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron, Ohio. For ticket information, call 330-962-5547 or visit nonetoofragile.com.
Playwright: Sharr White