Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Scenic designer Paige Hathaway has created a diorama-like set in the small ARK Theatre: the back of a house, a small enclosed garden, flower beds beside ivy growing on a wall, a table and a few chairs, all bordered inside a wooden proscenium. Three friendsLena (Brigid Cleary), Vi (Catherine Flye), and Sally (Helen Hedman)drink tea and chat in broken phrases random-sounding words that sometimes coalesce into sentences. They seem to speak past each other most of the time but always seem to hear each other.
The action begins when a neighbor, Mrs. Jarrett (Valerie Leonard), stops in to join them. She doesn't know the other women's stories and periodically she breaks the fourth wall (more specifically, draws a curtain across the garden set as the other women freeze in place) to recount, in incisive detail, stories of apocalyptic destruction with both human and natural causes. The effect is of a discordant strain in the elegant string music of Victoria Deiorio's sound design, an unacknowledged danger ahead.
That isn't to say the friends don't have their own dramas. Their shared experiences include death, trauma, crippling phobias, and depression, but through it all the sense that they can rely on each other. At one point they even sing and dance.
While Leonard's speeches are the most openly shocking, Flye shines as she displays emotions ranging from despair to vivid joy. Along with Hedman, whose character has her own epiphany, and the quieter, sadder Cleary, they form a powerful ensemble.
The play itself runs just 55 minutes, but audiences have the opportunity after each performance to gather at tables in the lobby, drink tea, eat cookies, and enter into structured conversations about what meaning they gleaned from it.