This play is simply complicated. In depression era Kansas, a widow and her twenty-one year old son have a routine. They work. They have supper. Mom goes to church. Son goes to the pool hall. Mom nags about his late night carousing. Son whines about her store bought pie. They exist as they have for years. When an unemployed actress disrupts their homespun customs, each must face what’s missing in their lives.
Playwright William Ingle penned a sincere ode to yesteryear. On the surface, a mother (played by Abigail Boucher) and son (played by Sam Hubbard) are surviving the depression. They are getting-by by seeking solace in their own way. Boucher has work and church. Hubbard has cigarettes and booze. Their drab lives are twisted with an uncomplicated codependence. They endure the rut because it’s familiar. Suddenly, Eliza Stoughton (Lila) brings sparkle into the drudgery. An earnest Stoughton becomes Boucher’s confidante. And a flirtatious Stoughton becomes Hubbard’s crush.
What I enjoyed about this play is how Ingle’s ordinary story is the manifestation of several unexpected back stories. It’d be like if Aunt Bea on the old “Andy Griffin” shared a secret past. Although the setting has that lemon-meringue-pie-homemade-goodness feel, Hubbard lets us know almost immediately that domesticate life isn’t bliss. There’s something missing. Ingle gives depth to his characters. He makes their lives messy. The introspection and resolutions have honest authenticity.
Under the skillful direction of Cody Estle, the pace is easy-going. Hubbard is especially unhurried. He takes drags off a cigarette and effortlessly establishes himself as a guy not going anywhere. When he speaks, he often effectively pauses mid-sentence to tease out the humor. His manner is in contrast to a stoic Boucher and the chatty Stoughton.
Estle has the trio share their pasts in heartbreaking moments of truth. When Boucher talks about her husband’s death, her face is hardened with a mixture of sadness and resentment. We only see peeks of softness in Boucher when she is interacting with Stoughton. Boucher’s ongoing reaction to Stoughton’s stories and actions was surprising for her character. They have a tight bond. At the beginning, Boucher tells Stoughton to call her ‘Helen.’ She makes the statement in this casual, no-nonsense peer way. Yet, every time, I heard Stoughton say “Helen” I hear this lost little girl trying to find her way. Stoughton is outstanding playing an actress uncomfortable dealing with reality. She looks all put together in her fur and hat but her chipper demeanor is an act. And nod out to Barbara Roeder Harris playing the overly dramatic Madame Olga that tries to hilariously scarf down a piece of pie when no one is looking.
A LOSS OF ROSES was the complete perfect package for me; writing, directing, acting. The stories pull you through these lives existing in depressing times. And one of the very last stories told by Stoughton about the loss of roses is unforgettable poignant. I highly recommend seeing this rarely produced play.
Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes with one intermission
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark
Written by William Inge
Directed by Cody Estle
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3:30pm
Sundays at 3:30pm
Thru April 2nd
Buy tickets at www. raventheatre.com
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