BWW Reviews: BEFORE I LEAVE YOU - A Different Cambridge Love Story
Before I Leave You
Written by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Directed by Jonathan Silverstein; Scenic Design, Allen Moyer; Costume Design, Michael Krass; Lighting Design, David Lander; Original Music/Sound Design, David Remedios; Production Stage Manager, Carola Morrone LaCoste; Stage Manager, Ryan A. Anderson
Performances through November 13 by Huntington Theatre Company at the Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-266-0800 or www.huntingtontheatre.org
Your body will be seated in the comfortable auditorium of the Wimberly Theatre in Boston's South End, but your mind will be transported to the environs of Cambridge by Before I Leave You, the premiere of Huntington Playwriting Fellow Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's love story for grownups. The 72-year old Cambridge-based Alfaro, like the sixty-something characters she creates in the play, may be embarking on an exciting new chapter in the third stage of a prolific life, while connecting with the experiences of a substantial and oft-ignored audience demographic.
From the opening scene at the veritable Royal East Chinese Restaurant in Central Square, the actors portraying longtime friends Emily (Kippy Goldfarb), Jeremy (Ross Bickell), Koji (Glenn Kubota), and Trish (Karen MacDonald) inhabit their characters like comfortable old cardigans and interpret Alfaro's dialogue as if their foursome had actually been wielding chopsticks together for four decades. Jeremy's sudden coughing jag is the first inkling that change is coming and sets the tone of concern about his health that will follow him throughout the play and prompt soul-searching questions among the group. Emily, Koji, and Trish are not immune to the winds of change and each of them faces life-altering choices that provide fertile material for dramatic and comic developments.
Alfaro infuses Before I Leave You with a Cambridge sensibility and draws characters that might not exist elsewhere, or at least not with such homogeneity. They are intelligent, well-educated, artistic, and politically liberal, card-carrying members of the Baby Boomer generation who live contentedly with their accomplishments and status in life. The exceptions are Jeremy's younger sister Trish, an out-of-work realtor who has temporarily moved in with him after falling on hard financial times, and Peter (Alexis Camins), the twenty-two year old grocery-bagger son of Emily and Koji. Trish's glaring personality traits stand out in high relief against the couple and her brother who are the norm for their cohort. It is a lot of fun to watch MacDonald, a very smart actress, flesh out the intellectually-challenged Trish, who often puts her mouth in gear before engaging her brain. She is a loose cannon who fires at will, sparking emotional distress in the others as collateral damage.
In addition to his burgeoning medical issues, 64-year-old Jeremy is struggling to complete work on a novel that he refers to as "an old person's book," one that will serve as a repository of his life experiences, full of laments and love songs. Koji longs for the chance to direct King Lear, but, to his dismay, is given the reins for a Japanese internment camp drama, only to connect in unexpected ways with his Asian heritage. While her art work keeps her busy, Emily's focus is on maintaining a relationship with Peter and his Vietnamese girlfriend. Father and son are estranged and mutually antagonistic, a situation which escalates until it eventually involves everyone.