DRAMA PREPARES POIGNANTLY FOR THE WINTER OF LIFE


        BONNIE GOLDBERG

While a flock of geese migrate south and autumnal leaves start turning crimson and gold, the mind and body acknowledge that the seasons of growth and beginnings are fading. Playwright Bruce Graham has used the coming of winter to foretell the end of life and the difficult decisions about approaching death in his deeply moving and emotional drama “The Outgoing Tide” being lovingly staged by Square One Theatre Company in Stratford until Sunday, March 20.

The intimate black box stage at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford, the new home of the company, has been transformed into an inviting cottage on the Chesapeake Bay, one where Gunner has been happily dropping his fishing line for decades. Al Kulcsar’s Gunner is sarcastically funny with a bite (much like he’d want his catfish to have), an actor who becomes increasingly evocative as we witness his bouts of dementia framed by passages of lucidity.

Gunner, once a trucker, had married young, his childhood sweetheart Peg, whom he affectionately dubs his “Grace Kelly beautiful, South Philly version.” Unprepared for marriage and a quickly arriving child, he used a bullying form of words and deeds with his son Jack to “toughen” him for life. Now as an adult son about to divorce his wife, Jack, a conflicted Damien Long, has yet to reconcile his feelings for his dad.

Jack is now caught, as surely as a lobster locked in a trap, between his parents as he is summoned by his father to return to the family home for an urgent matter. His mother Peg, a dedicated and devoted Peggy Nelson, has always protected her son, filling him with cautionary tales of terror that could happen if he wasn’t careful. These messages contrasted greatly to the ones spouted by dad who always advocated taking a risk.

Now Jack is poised on a dangerous diving board between them. Mom wants him to advocate for and convince Gunner to move into an assisted living facility, one that has a special unit for when his mind finally betrays him, abandoning his quality of life. For his part, Gunner will hear none of it and has executed a plan that he can live (or die) with but he requires Jack’s help and Peg’s blessing.

Tom Holehan directs this incredibly honest, timely and personal weighing of options and values, one that too many face as terminal illness robs us of our choices.  Moments of humor punctuate the drama, while flash backs reveal the reasonings behind the actions of the past. This cast of three is masterful in bringing this drama of impending death to poignant life.

For tickets ($20, seniors and students $19), call Square One Theatre Company at 203- 375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Discover the importance of being there for family in good times and in bad, and the need to forgive when all is said and done. You may feel a compelling need to have a plate of pancakes or fried catfish by the end of the evening.

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