A fine line exists between saving, collecting and hoarding. Preserving bits and pieces of the past can ground us, but the threat is always present that they can just as easily suffocate and paralyze us, preventing us from moving on with our life. Such is clearly the case with Daniel Ashburn in the compelling and powerful world premiere drama “Salvage,” written by George Brant and directed by Maryna Harrison, being presented by Theatre 4 in New Haven until Sunday, May 6.


The Ashburn family now consists of only mother Roberta, played with strength of steel and backbone of anger by Janie Tamarkin, and daughter Kelly, created with anxiety and compassion by Mariah Sage. They have just buried Daniel, lovingly fragile son and brother, who has been tragically killed in a car accident.


In mom’s mind, Danny died two decades before when his high school sweetheart Amanda ended their relationship and abandoned him for her future, college, and later penned a revealing book, a bestseller, that was a mere wisp of gauze disguising their intimate and private love.


Danny never recovered from Amanda’s loss and has been frozen in time, unable to move forward, from that fateful day she walked out. As a worshipful younger sister, Kelly regarded her big brother as a hero and has been content to live in his shadow all these years.


Now a killer storm is on the way and the basement that houses all the treasures of Danny’s life will soon be flooded and mother and daughter have the daunting task of “salvaging” what each wants to save. They are closing up shop on an existence, and now they must quickly separate what is debris from what is dear, slicing open sealed boxes to reveal who Danny was.


Into this fraught and fearsome sea of unresolved issues walks Amanda, portrayed with charisma and chutzpah by Rebecka Jones, seemingly there to offer sympathy. But she has a manipulative agenda of her own. To Roberta, Amanda is a symphony of evil, the girl who destroyed her son. To Kelly, she is an idol to be adored, yet can she be trusted after walking out so many years before?


The intimate space in the Gallery at UpCrown Entertainment, 216 Crown Street, New Haven is perfect for this involving and emotional work that will keep you in suspense. “Wow” is too small a word.


“Salvage” was commissioned by Theatre 4 specifically to create good roles for women and George Brant has captured that task beautifully. For tickets ($30, student rush $15), call 203-654-7711 or online at www.t4ct.org. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Does Amanda deserve the blame for setting her young love Danny on a path that dead ends? Judge for yourself as this compelling work unfolds and the floodwaters creep ever closer.

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