“Thousand Pines” And The Type Of Families It Outlines
The mood of Thousand Pines is immediately set with ominous music the moment the audience steps into Westport County Playhouse’s theater. This heartbreaking play, directed by Austin Pendleton, has a beautiful message. Playwright Matthew Green says that, “the piece [is] a reminder of what binds us together, even when the world … seems hell-bent on tearing us apart.” This play shows the many different perspectives and outcomes that can come out of a shooting, drawing awareness to these horrific situations. It focuses on how three families react and grieve. This production emotionally draws you in, but it can leave the audience feeling confused at times, given that the six characters all portray multiple roles throughout the show.
This play revolves around three families after a recent shooting at Thousand Pines Junior High School. Each family serves a different purpose by showing how they all deal with the event differently. One family shows what happens when a parent won’t accept the tragedy, another family is one that grieves through suing and lawyers, and another family who accepts what happened but heals through anger and violence. The plot could have been simplified a little bit, especially with the second family the audience meets, and still have had the same impact but with a much clearer storyline. There are a few twists throughout the story that are very memorable and leave you really thinking and questioning everything.
Given the circumstances of the actors switching roles multiple times, this show would have worked better if each family had a whole new set of actors. Having six actors play each of the three families made the storyline a little confusing to follow the storyline. On the flip side of that, it was impressive to see the actors take on different roles, some drastically changing their whole persona. Kelly McAndrew, playing Actor 1, had three roles that completely showed her in a new light; sometimes it even takes a second to recognize who she is because even her costumes vary immensely from character to character.
On that note, Barbara A. Bell does a fantastic job with her costume design. She does a great job encapsulating each character’s personality and attitude through his or her outfits. What makes this even more impressive is how she transforms each actor when they come on stage as an entirely new character.
The set design by Walt Spangler is also very impressive. He has created an extremely dimensional set. It’s very interesting to see three unique stories told on the same set. The only problem with this is that the set is made for a well-off family. The last family we meet is clearly a little lower-class and the set does not match their economic circumstances. It is not believable that the third family would be living in that luxurious home. It would be better if the set either could be transformed a little bit for the third family or if the set were just a little more generic to be able to work well for all of the families.
Pendleton, the director, is somewhat effective in emotionally drawing in the audience. I was always taken to the brink of really feeling the actors pain, for it to be cut short right before I could really feel with them. This show takes you close to the brink of emotion but never makes that final push that is needed to give the show a more emotional reaction from audience members.
Overall, this play is extremely relevant and important. There is a strong message and there are some great and unexpected twists. After you see this play, you will definitely be thinking about it for a long time. You’ll have a lot of things you will want to relive from the show that leaves you with many questions.
Tickets can be found through: https://www.westportplayhouse.org/thousandpines