BWW Reviews: Lee Meriwether Makes A SHORT STAY at Carranor a Memorable One
True love has no bounds. If it is real, it is a joy to experience whatever the price. Such is the case in William Blinn's world premiere A Short Stay at Carranor now onstage at Theatre West through September 29. The play is bold in concept and treads on rarely explored ground theatrically.
Let's start at the beginning. Irene (Lee Meriwether) opens her Midwestern summer cottage early in spring to accept a visit from old beau Chet (Don Moss), who has been engaging in an extramarital affair with her. He has children. She has one daughter Shelby (Corinne Shor) who is vehemently opposed to her mother's tryst. Even though Irene laments that Chet and she were very much in love and that it was their parents who prevented them from marrying, Shelby will not budge. She is only present for the meeting with Chet to ensure that her mother has a ride home should Chet decide to leave early. Irene fears that the reunion will be unpleasant, that Chet will want to break off their affair. When he arrives, there's an uncomfortable dinner with Shelby and a long uncomfortable evening which continues to grow even more complex when Chet tells Irene the nature of his visit. He is dying and wants to spend the major part of the time he has left with her on the lake. A woman who has longed for so much more must think carefully under such conditions. Should she accept this painful end to their existence or send him packing back to his wife, who obviously still feels responsibility toward him? Of course, Irene Chooses that he stay. The rest of the play concerns the next few months in which Chet and Irene try to live out Chet's final days with as much grace as possible.
This is a very difficult piece that could easily get maudlin without a sense of humor and the right actors to carry it off. Fortunately, both elements are present. Moss lets his humor carry Chet through his period of distress, and there is additional fun provided by Greg Lewis as Mr. Dibble, a neighbor/fisherman who drops by to put his two cents in, kind of like Charlie the mailman in On Golden Pond. George Tovar plays Alan, Shelby's husband who visits to help celebrate Irene's birthday, and his light touches enhance the play's comic relief as well. Shor is a wonderfully controlled actress even when Shelby is out of control, and she delivers a lovely performance. Mary Burkin and Nick McDow play Diane, Chet's wife and Kyle, his grandson, who come in at the very end to collect Chet for his last days at home. The face-off between Diane and Irene is the type of scene that really separates the men from the boys and Burkin and Meriwether carry it off sublimely. Speaking of Meriwether, I'm saving the best for last. This actress is a perfect fit for Irene. She is astoundingly beautiful in her seventies and has a real, genuine charming nature that most ladies her age merely dream of. She is a special lady who gives a truly memorable and heartfelt performance.
Blinn's writing is bold in its breadth, and he really goes a long way to flesh out the characters into endearing human beings. Most films have dealt with couples entering old age and facing death, but as marrieds, not lovers, and I am not completely sure, but I believe there are no other plays that dare to go as far as Blinn goes over the two and a half hour period. Director John Gallogly provides wonderful pacing, and the evening is a nice surprise. Jeff G. Rack supplies one of the finest looking sets to grace the Theatre West stage. Go, if for no other reason than to see the beautiful Lee Meriwether, in this perhaps the crowning achievement of her career.