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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
Haunting Night at Seattle Public
Arts & Entertainment
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Haunting Night at Seattle Public

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THIS WIDE NIGHT
SEATTLE PUBLIC THEATER
Through June 10


This Wide Night, by British playwright Chloë Moss, now playing at Seattle Public Theater, is anything but wide. Indeed, the title seems more evocative of the characters' wished-for lives than the ones they actually live. The play centers on two women recently released from prison, who are now trying to eke out a life.

Emily Chisholm and Christina Mastin give riveting performances as the ex-cons. Vulnerable and aching Lorraine (Mastin), upon her release, seeks out Marie (Chisholm), who had been released earlier and to whom Lorraine had grown close in prison. We don't find out much about why the two were behind bars, but we experience with them the struggle to find a normal life outside.

Neither of them appears to be all that free, despite the fact that they can now come and go as they please. Getting out involves a lot of rules, it seems, and they still have to toe the line with authorities, either because they are under some kind of official supervision or else just haven't finished all the paperwork.

The staging, by director Sheila Daniels, is a raised, off-square, tiny studio apartment that looks drab and confining, appropriate for a young woman who had to take whatever housing she could find. Jen Zeyl's set includes the bare minimum: a fold-out bed, a broken TV, a beanbag chair. Effective, moody lighting by L.B. Morse highlights the passage of time, as does the striking sound design by Brendan Patrick Hogan. A sound suggestive of clock bells tolling the minutes (sometimes much too loudly for the small theater) provides effective scene-change cover.

The play focuses on the characters' constrained circumstances, and on their emotional need both to connect and to separate. Marie isn't sure she still wants Lorraine's company, even though she apparently had promised that the two would reunite outside and live together. Her ambivalence is clear enough that when Lorraine suddenly arrives, desperate for the only friend she has, Lorraine can see that she ultimately must try to find another way through this lonely world.

Yet, Marie relents, during a rain-soaked night, and the two women begin their uneasy sharing of the tiny room. We root for them as they try to focus on the future and regain their independence. They even cheer each other up, and Lorraine makes contact with a son who has grown up without her and is now so estranged that she is gratified that he lets her touch him at all.

While they seem to tell each other the truth, deception does occur and secrets are revealed, culminating in a surprise devastation that hints of further sorrows. The ending doesn't wrap up life neatly, since we know they will struggle still. As we all do, every day.

This reviewer continues to wish that the proliferation of British plays on local stages could be lessened, since invariably they mean we have to endure uneven accents - try as many fine actors might for consistency. This play contains some British references, but they don't seem essential. If just a few words were changed, perhaps the actors could dispense with the accents while giving the play a more direct reference to American lives.

Still, this is an affecting and immersive play with fine performances and technical support. For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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