A fine cast moves briskly and precisely through this wise and touching tale of loss
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Sept. 25, 2009
City Theatre, through Oct. 4
Running time: 1 hr, 45 min
In retrospect, I can't tell you when I began to lose faith in a kind and benevolent power. When I was 10 or 11, a neighbor saw our young Buffy, a collie mix, running loose in our yard and called to him. Buffy ran into the street and was hit by a car.
Inside the house, I heard the accident happen, and after I ran out and saw my sweet, kind dog broken but still alive in the middle of the street, I ran back in, crouched behind the big brown chair in the living room, and prayed to God that Buffy would be okay. But Buffy was not okay. Sweet Buffy died.
I was viscerally reminded of my loss watching this City Theatre Company production of David Lindsay-Abaire's play, because it also involves a dog running into the street, as well as a boy chasing the dog. But in this story the car doesn't hit the dog. And I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that, since you find out fairly early on that Becca and Howie are still in the process of mourning their lost son, Danny. At least Howie is mourning, attending group meetings and watching old videotapes of happier times. Becca seems more intent on removing all traces of Danny from their home, including banishing the dog to live with her mother. When Jason, the young driver of the car that struck Danny, gets in touch and tells Danny's parents he would like to see them, the tension between Becca and Howie is further complicated.
As is so often the case nowadays in Austin live theatre, director Stacey Glazer is blessed with a fine group of actors, and while the actors don't look much like a family, they do move briskly and precisely through Lindsay-Abaire's script. Rachel McGinnis has made a name for herself locally in a very short time playing plucky, youngish heroines, and she manages to make Becca likable despite her seeming indifference toward the loss of her son. David Meissner has some fine moments as Howie, particularly in a scene while watching himself and Danny on tape. Samantha Brewer provides both comic relief and real concern as Becca's pregnant sister, Izzy. Standing out in the cast is Michael Schnick as Jason. Whether talking about short stories he writes or the speed limit he might have been exceeding, Schnick provides an undercurrent of true regret and painful awkwardness that's riveting to watch.
But the real star of the show is Lindsay-Abaire's wise and touching Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Like some of its brethren, it may not withstand the unforgiving test of time, but it certainly speaks on a subject as eternal as time. Death can simply happen, without reason or fault. We can choose to let death define us, dragging us down with a chain of regrets, or we can choose to have faith and hope, which certainly can't be found in what's gone or in what's to come or in some power beyond our reckoning. Rather, we need to have faith in one another, for therein lies all our hope.