The sailing term ‘no wake’ means to proceed without making waves. A boat operates at a minimal speed until it clears the zone. Playwright William Donnelly uses the term for the title of his play about parents grieving the loss of a daughter. Unfortunately, it was the lack of turbulent waters that detached me from what could have been an engaging voyage.
The play starts out with an animated Raymond Fox (Roger) rambling on to a stoic Stef Tovar (Edward). As Fox prattles on about turtles, a vacant Tovar eats his pretzels. From Fox’s drunken monologue, we piece together they are strangers thrown together for a funeral. When Lia Mortensen (Rebecca) arrives, we realize these guys are her current and past husbands. The premise of an estranged couple burying their adult child has deep emotional possibilities. Add into the mix, they were also both estranged from their daughter. The regret and betrayals make for this complex web of fragile relationships. The subject matter is palpable. The execution is not.
Although Fox exhibits a range of over-the-top emotional outbursts, Tovar and Mortensen do not. Director Kimberly Senior keeps their performances understated especially Tovar. In the first scene, Tovar nicely contrasts Fox’s frenzy. Later, we are waiting for his bottled-up emotion to erupt. It never does. Tovar even has a line referencing the play title about not making waves. His delivery may be a ‘still waters run deep’ focus but that choice keeps the audience from caring about these people. As we discover more sad tidbits about the daughter, Tovar and Mortensen respond with increasing flirtation. Their casual grieving as parents is disconcerting. At one point, Fox explains Mortensen is confused. Really? I don’t see it. For a couple angry at each other, Tovar and Mortensen are fairly amicable which make them not terribly likable for the audience.
NO WAKE really was no wake for the deceased. It seemed like a rom-com wannabe trying to avoid discussing the pesky dead body in the room.
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln
Written by William Donnelly
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru February 7th
Buy tickets www.greenhousetheater.org
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