“We can’t get better if we keep skipping over things.”
Danielle and Connor haven’t been home since their son died. The threat of a big storm brings them back to secure the house and grapple with memories. Connor claims to have found closure, but he sneaks whiskey in his coffee while taking long walks to nowhere. Danielle offers no pretense of recovery. Bitter to the point of sourness, she curses the ocean for stealing her child.
(By cruelty of the schedule, Jenny Maloney also played a grieving mother in “Gidion’s Knot” 10 weeks ago. She does a great job differentiating the characters, but the overlap in experience compounds our exhaustion. It feels like Danielle has been broken forever, even though we just met her.)
The first act unfolds as a typical domestic drama. After intermission, things take a turn for the weird and wondrous. We suddenly find ourselves on isolated islands filled with large black birds and cackling crones.
Lynne Hastings enthralls as a force too old and powerful for mere mortals to contend with. She fills the theatre with her presence, warm yet terrifying. Barbara Summerville keenly undercuts that magnificence with perfectly timed scorn. The two make a fascinating pair.
David Corder captures inhuman detachment as the bird, neither cruel nor compassionate. He has a job to do, but he will do it as gently as possible. The way he plucks truth out of the men onstage will move you to tears.
“Afterlife” offers no heaven, only the delicate intermingling of oblivion and rest. It’s a world where, as Danielle states earlier, “All I have here are memories that I can’t enjoy ever again.”
But when bitter memories are all you have, even that can be too hard to let go.
Terrific design on the bird puppet (credit to Charles Redding and Jillmarie Peterson). It’s the perfect size, unsettlingly large without becoming goofy.
If you want an immersive experience, four chairs on either side spill onto the stage. The actors won’t acknowledge you, but you’ll see things from a whole different perspective.
“Afterlife: A Ghost Story” contains coarse language and mature themes.
Springs Ensemble Theatre
1903 E Cache La Poudre
Box Office: (719) 357-3080
Playing October 12 – 29, 2017
Admission: $15 general
Running Time: 2 hours