Thousand Pines – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Thanksgiving is that universal holiday that unites us, brings us together, places gratitude in the center of the dining room table right next to the turkey. Families gather to give thanks for all the blessings they have enjoyed in the past and hope to celebrate in the future.

What happens, however, when the family units are splintered and suffering, individually and collectively grieving over a tremendous loss. Tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary School, The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the recent tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh loom large in our recent memories.

In Matthew Greene’s world premiere drama “Thousand Pines” at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, November 17, we are thrust into the aftermath of a school shooting at a middle school as a trio of families are trying to cope with the Thanksgiving holiday.

In three different scenarios, we meet the Fosters, the Kanes and the Garrisons who are struggling with the empty chair at their table. Forget the Norman Rockwell painting. The cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes are accompanied by anger and pain, disillusionment and a search for justice and retribution.

Six skilled actors – Katie Ailion, Kelly McAndrew, Anne Bates, William Ragsdale, Joby Earle and Andrew Veenstra- play the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, family friends and teachers who are grabbling with these issues of tragedy and terrorism.

Austin Pendleton directs this all too timely exploration of the repercussions of tragedy, the picking up the pieces of lives that will never to whole again, and the human devastations for all involved. Since Columbine, Colorado in April, 1999, there have been an incredible 200 school shootings across the country.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 pm. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

When grief descends upon us, we look to our loved ones, family and friends, for comfort, for solace and for the will to carry on with life.