Alice Birch’s beautiful, aching play depends on the careful delivery of synchronised and overlapping dialogue from characters in three time periods who share the same stage at the same time. It functions like a symphony. Every note is critical.
Director Lileana Blain-Cruz’s production gets some of the musical movements right, but it’s neither as chilling nor as finely tuned as the original production at London’s Royal Court.
Birch’s play explores generational trauma. Carol (Carla Gugino) is suicidal and holds on to life as best she can as her daughter grows up. That daughter, Anna (Celeste Arias), is an addict, who’s in recovery until her struggles return postpartum. Her child, Bonnie (Gabby Beans), becomes a doctor who has difficulty expressing her feelings or fitting in socially.
Gugino’s Carol has a steely stillness. Arias’ Anna has a captivating manic energy that transforms into desolate panic when her mental health starts to slip away from her. Beans gives a skewering performance as Bonnie, full of silent anguish and longing. Alongside them, the supporting cast disappear into the background with the exception of Miriam Silverman, who plays a number of supporting characters including Carol’s aggressive sister-in-law.
Mariana Sanchez’s set, soothing sea-grass coloured walls with occasional warm lighting, are at odds with this emotionally raw play. The texture of the walls is changed by projections that overemphasise the emotional changes, something that hits its peak with images of tumbling waves.
The repetition of words and the reoccurring themes in these women’s lives should echo with meaning, but it feels as if the performers are still working on perfecting their delivery. There are one too many off-notes.