"The Outgoing Tide"

By Tom Nissley

Many (51) years ago, then President Dwight Eisenhower convened a conference on Children and Youth. A subsection addressed the idea of theater as a cultural asset, and the committee’s report urged the administration to invest large sums of money to help establish theater groups in every town in the USA so that people could have the enjoyment of writing plays and acting in plays and learning from plays, and by so doing improve the quality of life immensely.

It didn’t happen. The money we requested went towards building a grand cultural monument in the capital. We know it today as the Kennedy Center, and it serves a real purpose.

But half a century later I think that the persons who served on that committee must realize that most of what they hoped for has happened in town after town. For evidence, I would point to Square One Theatre’s list of excellent productions, in Stratford, going back 26 years, and then check that against the biographies of the actors in the current production, The Outgoing Tide. These very talented actors have appeared in Westport, Newtown, New Canaan, Bridgeport, Hamden, and New York. It’s apparent that they love theater and love acting and just do it, searching out where the best opportunities are.

The Outgoing Tide is a beautifully structured play by Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham about Alzheimer’s and the fears of how to deal with it. A quick bottom line is go see it. It’s terrific. How so? Three skilled actors represent a family dealing with the confusion of the father who vacillates between knowing his wife or not knowing her, and who, as the play opens, quizzes a man about why he is talking to him without realizing that it is his son. His wife wants them to move to a Center offering comprehensive continuing care. And he does not. But he does have a plan that emerges while they struggle.

Al Kulcsar plays the role of Gunnar, the father. He inhabits the character beautifully. Peggy Nelson is Peg, his wife, who is desperate about how to care for a husband who wanders away, physically and mentally, at any moment, and Damian Long is their son, Jack, who is fifty years old, and puzzling through his own divorce. All three have been on the stage at Square One before this show. Al Kulcsar and Peggy Nelson have played multiple roles there. Damian Long has only had one earlier show (A Walk in the Woods) there, but many significant roles in other area theaters. Together, under the direction of Tom Holehan, they make a completely believable family with a completely believable crisis.

The Outgoing Tide is so well performed that it’s easy to wish this production could be shared in other area theaters. The simple set and appropriate costumes work very well, and the tension between the members of this family (that will certainly connect with each of our memories at some point or points) is magical. I am so grateful for having shared this time with them and suggest you do that too. Call 203.375.8778 for tickets, or go to www.squareonetheatre.com for information.

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