Tim Ransom and Stef Tovar in No Wake. Photo: Carol Roseff
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
At 59E59 Theaters the New York City premiere of William Donnelly's play, No Wake explores a drama of whirling emotions in the parents whose child has just committed suicide. After years of estrangement from their late daughter, Sukey, Edward Nolan (Stef Tovar) and wife Rebecca Pagett (Tricia Small) have tried to go on with their lives, made adjustments and now they face coping with the permanent loss of Sukey.
Under Veronica Brady's direction, No Wake lumbers through a harrowing situation of loss and humanity. The atmosphere is bleak. In the theater's black box venue, Tom Buderwitz's effective set resembles a drab motel more than a picturesque Massachusetts inn. In the bar, Edward is quietly nursing a beer while his ex-wife's new husband, Roger (Tim Ransom), tries to lift the mood. Roger, a loquacious Brit, awkwardly strains to find his place within this indescribably uncomfortable situation that really only involves Sukey's parents as they go through the motions of a funeral. Finally, he has had too much to drink and stumbles back to his room.
Edward, who persuaded his girlfriend not to come to the funeral, remains alone until later, when Rebecca comes to his room to mull over their life together. Their connection is still fractured after a difficult divorce and years of their only child's emotional instability and detachment from them, lonely battles with despair and relief, memories, and guilt. Rebecca comments, "When I wake up at night and I can't get back to sleep, the only question knocking against the front of my skull is, how did you create a child who despises you?"
In the midst of blame and confusion, Rebecca and Edward also ignite old sexual feelings obvious to Roger when, hung over, he wanders into Edward's room the next morning, looking for Rebecca. It's obvious that she spent it in Edward's bed. In an absurd sequence choreographed by Ned Mochel, Roger challenges Edward to a ludicrous fist fight, two middle-aged men swinging at each other.
Tim Ransom as Roger is the most likeable character, delivering Roger's discomfort with perception and also and nuanced in the lack of self-confidence that he tries hide with British charm.
Tricia Small is a wound-up Rebecca, angry at both Edward and Sukey. She says, "Can’t blame her, though. Can’t blame the victim. Can’t blame myself. Can’t blame God ‘cause He might not even be there, God forbid. So you tell me who to blame?"
Portraying the detached Edward, Tovar had moved on to a "No Wake" zone since Sukey's mental illness was diagnosed and he left her care to Rebecca. (Inspiring the play's title, the term "No Wake" refers to the point in the sea where boats must slow down for safety and not make waves.) After his evening with Rebecca, however, he shows some indication of change.
Edward concludes, "There’s no way to tell what’s grief and what’s memory... but for the first time in a long time I’m willing to fight. No wake is not my dream." No Wake presents the possibility of this lost couple moving on and taking risks, but will they?
Route 66 Theatre at 59E59 Theatre
Previews: Sept. 28, 2017. Opening: Oct. 4, 2017. Closing: Oct. 15, 2017
Running time: 85 minutes. No intermission.
Cast: Tim Ransom (Roger), Tricia Small (Rebecca), Stef Tovar (Edward)
Playwright: William Donnelly
Director: Veronica Brady
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Also can be read on TotalTheater.com