Cherry Lane Theatre: #ASummerDay

“Close the window; aren’t you cold?”

“My husband, he’s running errands in the city, he should be here soon.”

In the context of Jon Fosse’s A Summer Day at Cherry Lane Theatre presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre these phrases say much more.

An Older Woman (Karen Allen) is lost in the sadness and confusion of her husband Asle’s (McCaleb Burnett) disappearance some time ago.  Fosse presents the story quite simply.  All we know is that the story occurs in “an isolated old house overlooking the water somewhere”, it’s near a city, and a couple who seemingly only has time to spend with each other barely know each other.  The Older Woman receives visits from her Older Friend (Pamela Shaw) that bookend her vision of the past, herself as a Younger Woman (Samantha Soule), and their friends/acquaintances (Maren Bush & Carlo Alban).

The set is sparse, a flatboard floor with a long, beautifully crafted bench.  The props include a couple of books and rain jackets.  The Older Woman is trapped; much like she was as a younger woman, inside what is deemed a big, beautiful old house of their dreams.  Her husband is restless, wrestling his demons so much so that his only respite is sitting in a small, old, wooden rowboat on the bay.

Ms. Allen’s voice is throaty and rich; her saucer eyes gaze forlornly into the audience, into the distance, into the bay.  She makes her character’s obsessive/compulsive need to stare out the window endearing, pitiable.  Burnett’s Asle derives less sympathy – he is brusque and agitated.  Allen and her counterpart, Ms. Soule remain oblivious to each other but do share the space beautifully.  The Older Woman cannot seem to grasp what happened; her husband is gone, yes, but why, and how?  She and Asle certainly fell victim to the illusion that if they could attain e.x.a.c.t.l.y. what they wanted e.g. a big house near the water away from the city, they would be happy.  Happiness is a one-shot deal; either you are or you aren’t and it can’t be dependent on physical things or locations.

My friend and I walked out contemplating the possibilities.  Did Asle drown (the weather turned ugly the last time he ventured out)?  Did he deliberately drown himself (he referred to being fascinated by the bay’s depth)?  Did he stage the whole thing?  Maybe he shoved the boat into the water and ran away?  We then began contemplating the least shitty course of action; suicide or running way?  Although, isn’t suicide a form of running away?

Karen Allen is beautiful; she is calm yet deeply troubled as the Older Woman.  When I’m old, I wouldn’t mind looking like Pamela Shaw, either.  Samantha Soule is precocious, she attacks her position with simmering tenacity – she is at her wit’s end but she won’t give up.  She rides the storm out, only to be left alone.

Performances run through December 8, tickets may be purchased here.

P.S. Check out Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar for a Pre/Post Show drink; mulled wine + brie croutons=perfect autumn snack.

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