BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Revival of FALLING Well Worth Revisiting
It's been a couple of years since playwright Deanna Jent's Falling debuted here in St. Louis, and since then it's been published, and gone on to receive rave reviews on both coasts. Falling's impact has been a wonderful thing to witness from afar, and so it's especially nice that we get the opportunity to revisit the play in Mustard Seed Theatre's current production. This was challenging and rewarding must-see theatre when I saw it in 2011, and I can assure you that my opinion is even stronger. This is a powerful piece that raises a number of important questions.
The Martins are a typical family in many ways, but they also have the additional responsibility of caring for an autistic son, Josh, who's begun to display aggressive behavior. That's left them to fend for themselves since they don't have a therapist willing to work with him. And, that's put even more of a strain on a family dynamic that's already stretched to its limits. The daily tensions are still manageable to a degree, but they're beginning to take their toll. Enter husband Bill's mother Sue, a bible-thumping believer who stops by for an extended visit, but is unprepared for her encounter with the fully grown Josh.
Michelle Hand is razor sharp as the beleaguered mother Tami, struggling to hold on to her son, while realizing that her marriage and her own safety may be at risk. Greg Johnston is also solid as her husband Bill, who's found himself growing estranged from his wife due to the overall strain. Daniel Lanier delivers an excellent performance as Josh, aided in his efforts by movement/combat director Shaun Seley. Lanier ably captures the conflicting feelings that constantly bombard and distract the childlike Josh. Katie Donnelly contributes nicely as his sister Lisa, giving her a genuine sense of frustration over the sacrifices she's endured over the years. Carmen Russell neatly rounds out the cast as Sue, maintaining her composure despite being taken aback by some of Josh's behavior.
This time around Deanna Jent also directs, and the production seems even tighter and more focused than before. John Stark does fine work re-creating the scenic design he achieved for the original staging, and Jane Sullivan's costuming fits each character well. Michael Sullivan's lighting scheme is fairly straightforward, but does contain a few tricks that act to set a particular mood that's needed.
Even if you've already seen Falling, you should check it out again just to see the refinements and tightening that have taken place. If you haven't, then you really need to check out Mustard Seed Theatre's terrific production that plays through May 4, 2014.