The Attic Space

A husband and wife play out their decades-long marriage in this intriguing farewell from Palindrome Theatre

Unpacking a marriage's memories (l-r): Babs George, Helyn Rain Messenger, and Ev Lunning Jr. in <i>The Attic Space</i>
Unpacking a marriage's memories (l-r): Babs George, Helyn Rain Messenger, and Ev Lunning Jr. in The Attic Space (Courtesy of Shannon Bishop)

The Attic Space

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd., 736-5191
www.palindrometheatre.com
Through Dec. 22
Running time: 1 hr., 20 min.

It is difficult to describe The Attic Space, a new play from Palindrome Theatre and, according to the company, its last production.

This should not be mistaken as a condemnation of the show. On the contrary, cast and crew present a good production of the original script by artistic director and first-time playwright Nigel O'Hearn, who also directs. The script itself is impressive for a playwright without much production experience, and the set design from George Marsolek – an entire attic constructed in the playing space of Salvage Vanguard Theater – is thorough. Lead actors Babs George as Harriett and Ev Lunning Jr. as Harold are established pros who turn in solid, thoughtful performances.

The trouble comes when trying to explain the play itself. The dialogue points squarely to Pinter and Albee for influences, which means that "clear" and "easy" are two words that should not be used to describe The Attic Space. Instead, it's a play that allows characters to speak almost, but not quite, realistically, demanding that the audience listen on a different level. It's about letting the entire work wash over one's ears and drawing conclusions from the experience as a whole, rather than picking apart individual exchanges in hopes of discovering a central meaning after only one viewing of the play.

The play takes place in the attic of a house, where Harriett has hidden herself, apparently paralyzed by her own memories. Her husband Harold pops through the door from below, justifiably wondering what's going on and if she's all right. The two then play out what is in essence their entire decades-long marriage: fights and intimacy, misguided accusations and confessions. After they reach a point of some conclusion, they take a pair of puppets (designed by Tara Cooper, with puppetry action staged by Caroline Reck) and play out the same interactions they just struggled through in an attempt to understand what just happened, but this time, each plays the other's role using the puppet.

As in a marriage, neither partner is a clear winner or loser in their conflict, nor is the conflict itself that clear. It is intriguing, however. It's also sensitive in its exploration of two lives in their twilight years and what it means to try and understand the mountain of experiences and memories comprising a shared life.

Well wishes are due to the members of Palindrome Theatre, who have completed a solid final chapter of the company's oeuvre and who we hope will continue to contribute to Austin theatre under other company names.

  • More of the Story

  • Endgame

    Nigel O'Hearn terminates Palindrome Theatre after three years, just as planned

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Zach Theatre's <i>The Ballad of Klook and Vinette</i>
Zach Theatre's The Ballad of Klook and Vinette
In tracking one couple's affair, this production shows us how love is an imperfect art

Trey Gutierrez, May 17, 2019

<i>Terminator: The Musical</i> at Fallout Theater
Terminator: The Musical at Fallout Theater
This is exactly the sort of loving parody of nuclear apocalypse and time-traveling AI everyone should experience at least once

M. Brianna Stallings, May 17, 2019

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Diverse Space Dance Theatre's <i>Memoirs and Armours</i>
Diverse Space Dance Theatre's Memoirs and Armours
The company's season closer showed the young dancers' commitment to a shared vision and their potential as artists

May 10, 2019

Vortex Repertory Company's <i>Last: An Extinction Comedy</i>
Vortex Repertory Company's Last: An Extinction Comedy
The magic cast by the company of this devised shows pulls laughs from the impending demise of the planet

April 12, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Attic Space, Austin theatre, Nigel O'Hearn, Palindrome Theatre, Babs George, Ev Lunning Jr., George Marsolek

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle